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Rakuten Inc., Japan’s top online shopping mall operator, said Tuesday it will tap into the telecommunications industry by acquiring a 54.27 percent stake in Fusion Communications Corp. for 673 million yen.

Fusion, Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Internet protocol phone subsidiary, is expected to become part of the Rakuten group after the power company sells all of its shares to the online company July 31, the three companies said.

“We will expand Rakuten’s community” by giving users of its Net-based services access to services that are available outside the Internet environment, Rakuten President Hiroshi Mikitani told a news conference in Tokyo.

The acquisition of voice communications services will help Rakuten customers on the Internet to communicate with more people, and will eventually lead to increases in the number of people using its cyberspace business community, the value of its online services and advertisement revenues, and the number of Fusion subscribers, he said.

Rakuten says it has about 37 million users of its group services.

Tepco had negotiated on a sale of Fusion to cable TV broadcaster Usen Corp, but talks broke down due to technological and other difficulties Usen might have faced after buying the phone company, according to sources.

Tepco revamped its efforts to sell off Fusion by placing it under the leadership of President Etsuro Oshima, to make the company more appealing to prospective buyers.

Oshima, who used to work for the power company, was promoted from executive vice president last November.

Fusion has been struggling with business difficulties on the back of the spread of cell phones. The company saw a net loss of 1.46 billion yen on operating revenues of 54.11 billion yen in the business year that ended in March.

For related stories:
Tepco may sell ISP Fusion to Usen

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