Softbank Reportedly Planning Online Bank Purchase

According to published reports today, Japanese Internet investment company Softbank is planning to acquire an insolvent Japanese bank and turn it into the hub of an online financial services community.

Citing unnamed company executives, Asahi, the Japanese daily newspaper, reported that Softbank — a $45 billion (US$) Internet incubator with an international presence — will acquire Nippon Credit Bank.

A spokesman for the company refused to comment on the report, saying only that Softbank would likely move into online banking in the next few years. An American spokesman told the E-Commerce Times that he was unable to contact Softbank representatives in Japan to comment on the report.

Nippon Credit Bank was privatized last December by government inspectors after being found insolvent. Analysts say that Softbank would be more interested in acquiring the bank’s operating license than it would its assets.

One subsidiary, E*Trade Japan, bought Osawa Securities last year for the expressed purpose of obtaining its license to trade on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Asahi said that Softbank is planning an online bank that will capitalize on Internet investments and commissions on managing customer’s assets and will look for a joint venture with a U.S. or European insurer.

A Logical Step

Given Softbank’s recent online joint ventures with a U.S. insurance marketplace and a Japanese consumer credit firm, it seems logical to many analysts that its looking to circle its financial service holdings around an online bank.

Last month, the company announced that it would build the first online financial services mall, providing a one-stop shopping venue for banking, insurance needs, loan applications, stock trading and more.

The largest shareholder in Yahoo!, ZDNet and E*Trade, Softbank has a portfolio that numbers over 100 companies and is revered in Internet circles for its ability to find synergy between its different units.

The company has equity positions in E*Loan,, USWeb/CKS and many more.

Below Ground As Well

In addition to its e-commerce moves, Softbank is also pouring millions into developing an Internet infrastructure in Asia. In August, the company announced a partnership with Microsoft and Tokyo Electric Power to offer low-cost, wireless Internet connection to Japanese users.

Each of the companies has taken a 31 percent stake in the venture, which is expected to begin next year.

One month later, Softbank announced that it was taking a stake in Global Crossing’s ambitious plan to build an 11,000-mile land and undersea network that will connect China, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Microsoft and Softbank are taking a 3.5 percent stake in the venture, which will be offered to the public. They will both contribute $125 million in cash and have the option to increase their stakes to 19 percent if the market cap of the venture exceeds $7.5 billion.

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