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A day after snapping up Finnish game maker, wireless carrier in talks with U.S. phone distributor

Softbank’s Son on buying spree

Bloomberg

A day after Softbank Corp. said it was buying a majority stake in Finnish game maker Supercell, the company’s billionaire chairman and CEO, Masayoshi Son, is at it again.

The nation’s third-largest wireless carrier is also in talks to buy a stake in Brightstar Corp., a U.S.-based mobile phone distributor, Softbank said in a filing to the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The Nikkei newspaper earlier reported that deal could be worth more than ¥100 billion.

Softbank has been involved in at least 12 deals in the past year, topped by its $21.6 billion (¥2.1 trillion) acquisition of U.S. telecommunications firm Sprint Corp., as it looks to expand in North America and Europe to counter a declining population at home.

Softbank on Tuesday agreed to purchase a 51 percent stake in Supercell, adding to a stable of investments in more than 1,000 Internet companies, including China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Yahoo Japan Corp.

“Son has said entering the U.S. carrier market was his dream, but his dream seems endless,” said Yuuki Sakurai, CEO of Fukoku Capital Management Inc. “Where does he plan to stop?”

Brightstar distributes mobile phones, provides handset insurance and financial services with operations in about 50 countries, according to its website.

No decision has been made on the acquisition, based on Softbank’s filing with the TSE. Brightstar Chairman Marcelo Claure said the company doesn’t comment on rumors.

“Waking up in the morning is fun as long as there’s a dream,” a posting on Son’s Twitter account said late Tuesday.

Softbank said the same day it has agreed to pay $1.53 billion (¥150.7 billion) for the majority stake in Supercell, the developer of games including “Clash of Clans” and “Hay Day,” in a bid by the carrier to capitalize on booming demand for titles played on mobile phones.

“Expanding its content business fits Softbank’s growth strategy and the company will likely continue expanding operations outside the telecom arena,” Satoru Kikuchi, an analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc. in Tokyo, said in a report to clients.

Softbank invested $20 million (¥1.97 billion) in Alibaba more than a decade ago. Its investment in the group could end up worth more than 1,000 times that figure if the Chinese e-commerce operator proceeds with an initial public offering. Analysts estimate Alibaba may be worth up to $120 billion.