SBC to acquire 3% of Yahoo from Softbank

SBC Communications Inc. has moved closer to becoming the single largest shareholder in Yahoo Inc. with a deal to purchase a 3% stake in the Web portal operator from Softbank America Inc., the current largest shareholder.

Softbank America will sell about 17.3 million shares to San Antonio-based SBC for around $300 million, its parent company, Tokyo-based Softbank Corp., said in a statement Friday. Following the sale, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2002, Softbank America's stake in Santa Clara, Calif.-based Yahoo will fall to about 17%, while that of SBC will rise to about 16%.

The deal follows the announcement in November that SBC and Yahoo will jointly launch a co-branded access service in the U.S. Scheduled for launch in the middle of 2002, the service will offer both dial-up and Digital Subscriber Line access to subscribers. SBC is a major U.S. telecommunications company; its operations include Southwestern Bell, Ameritech, Pacific Bell and Nevada Bell. SBC also owns a 60% stake in Cingular Wireless.

For Softbank, the transaction is the latest in a number of stock sales conducted in the U.S. this year. Earlier this month, the company netted about $138.2 million from the sale of shares in Menlo Park, Calif.-based ETrade Group Inc. and $45 million from the sale of stock in San Francisco-based CNet Networks Inc. In September, it sold stock in Los Angeles-based Key3Media Inc. for about $126 million.

Softbank owes much of its success to an early investment in Yahoo. The company picked up a slice of Yahoo before its initial public offering and reaped massive profits on the increase in stock value that followed Yahoo's success. The company also became a founding investor in Yahoo Japan, and unrealized profits from the stock it holds in both Yahoo companies make up two-thirds of all unrealized gains on stock held by Softbank.

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