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Business

SoftBank joins forces with Batman and Godzilla

TOKYO -- SoftBank will invest in an American company known for its "Dark Knight" and "Godzilla" movies, with plans to also set up a joint venture to sell content in China and India.

     The Japanese telecommunications giant will pay $250 million this month for a nearly 10% stake in California-based Legendary Entertainment. Their venture will likely collaborate with Chinese e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba and Indian messaging app provider Hike, both of which SoftBank has stakes in.

     "Hardware will become a commodity," SoftBank President Masayoshi Son said. "We are not just a telecom company, but an Internet company" that handles software, he added.

     SoftBank is awash in cash, having freed up trillions of yen recently when it abandoned a push to purchase T-Mobile US. And Alibaba's recent U.S. listing has given the Japanese company 8 trillion yen ($72.8 billion) in unrealized gains on its 32% stake.

     Purchasing a foreign telecommunications giant means vaulting regulatory hurdles and spending trillions of yen, so SoftBank is also looking at content providers.

     The company was recently reported to have approached DreamWorks Animation SKG about a nearly 400 billion yen acquisition deal. Last year, it also bought smartphone game developers GungHo Online Entertainment of Japan and Supercell of Finland. Apps from the two companies are popular around the world.

     Movie content is the next area of focus, with the company expecting faster data services and larger smartphone screens to fuel demand for video.

     Former Google Senior Vice President Nikesh Arora recently joined SoftBank as vice chairman and as chief executive of a newly formed Internet and media unit. He will serve as a director at Legendary. The company will likely continue its content-business shopping spree by capitalizing on personal connections.

(Nikkei)

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