KDDI Corp. President Takashi Tanaka revealed Wednesday that his firm in the past year had discussed acquiring Sprint Nextel Corp. but in the end opted not to buy the U.S. carrier.
“I think pursuing the size is one value, but that’s Softbank’s style, and we are different,” Tanaka said of Softbank Corp.’s announcement Monday that it plans to acquire Sprint to become the world’s third-largest carrier in terms of sales.
Tanaka said Sprint was on a list of firms considered for possible mergers and acquisitions suggested by at least one brokerage a year ago.
KDDI’s public relations department declined comment on how seriously KDDI looked into the acquisition deal.
He also said Softbank’s move does not affect KDDI’s strategy for overseas markets.
The rivalry between KDDI and Softbank, both providers of Apple Inc.’s iPhone in Japan, has intensified in the past year.
KDDI currently has about 36 million users and has been Japan’s second-largest carrier. Softbank itself has about 30 million users, but when combining users of Willcom, a PHS operator and part of the Softbank group, and eAccess Ltd., which runs Emobile, it has about 39 million users. When adding Sprint’s subscribers, it totals about 96 million.
Softbank announced earlier this month it will acquire eAccess to reinforce the LTE high-speed new network for iPhones.
Tanaka brushed aside worries that the Softbank-Sprint alliance may start fiercer price competition by using its size advantage to procure handsets and network equipment more cheaply.
Major carriers already procure large amounts of handsets, so it is questionable how much they can exploit the size advantage, Tanaka said.
“We are not stupid; we’ve been carrying out various analyses,” Tanaka told a press event where KDDI unveiled new products and services for its au brand.
KDDI introduced 10 new smartphones for this winter that are all based on Google Inc.’s Android operating system and connect to LTE networks.
Two other major carriers are also expanding their LTE networks amid the rapid expansion of the smartphone market.