Softbank, Advantage Consider Buying Willcom Stake

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese mobile phone operator Softbank Corp (9984.T) and private equity firm Advantage Partners are mulling taking stakes in wireless telecoms firm Willcom Inc, which is seeking help from a state-backed turnaround fund, the Nikkei daily reported on Friday.

Willcom, 60 percent-owned by private equity firm Carlyle [CYL.UL], has been in talks with creditors on rescheduling its debt. It plans to apply for assistance from the Enterprise Turnaround Initiative Corp of Japan (ETIC), the business daily said.

Under the restructuring plan the ETIC is mulling, current shareholders in Willcom will lose all of their stake and the state-backed fund, Softbank and Advantage will take stakes, the Nikkei reported.

The size of each stake has not been decided, but the ETIC is expected to be the biggest shareholder, the paper said.

High-tech components maker Kyocera Corp (6971.T) has a 30 percent stake in Willcom and Japan’s No. 2 telecoms firm KDDI (9433.T) has 10 percent.

The ETIC and Willcom are also expected to ask the company’s creditors to forgive part of its 93.5 billion yen ($1 billion) debt, the Nikkei said.

Softbank, Japan’s No. 3 mobile phone operator, is eyeing Willcom’s next-generation high-speed wireless network and its subscribers, the paper said.

The ETIC is currently mulling a rescue package for Japan Airlines (9205.T), and Kazuo Inamori, who agreed to become the carrier’s new chief executive, is the founder and honorary chairman of Kyocera and a Willcom director and senior adviser. ($1=91.22 Yen) (Reporting by Taiga Uranaka)