Yahoo Japan is to buy Japanese telco eAccess from wireless provider Softbank in a deal worth $3.2 billion (324 billion yen), it said today.
Softbank itself acquired eAccess back in October 2012, in a share swap deal valued at around $2.6 billion.
Yahoo Japan is a joint venture between Yahoo and Softbank. Reuters notes that Softbank owns a stake of around 42.5% in Yahoo Japan.
In recent years Yahoo has pulled its services out of several Asian regions — exiting South Korea entirely at the end of 2012. However it also said it remained committed to growth opportunities in the region — the Japanese market evidently being one of them.
“We have a solid business in APAC and see a lot of opportunity for growth across our content properties, communications services and ecommerce sites,” Yahoo said back in October 2012.
The Yahoo Japan web portal still pulls in considerable traffic in the market — reporting 14.3 billion monthly page views back in April last year, beating out its nearest competitors.
However the rise of mobile content aggregator startups, such as SmartNews, Gunosy, NewsPick and Presso, is bringing a new crop of competitors into the mix — which likely explains why Yahoo Japan is buying a carrier. It’s a move from the desktop era to mobile.
Yahoo Japan said the purchase of eAccess is aimed at expanding the services it offers for smartphones and tablets.
eAccess owns a Japanese carrier E-Mobile as a subsidiary company. The new name of the carrier will be Y! Mobile.
E-Mobile is a distant fourth in the Japanese carrier market, with circa 4.5 million subscribers at the last count. Yahoo Japan is hoping to push that up to 10 million, but it also explicitly said today it does not want to become a telco. Rather it’s setting its sights on using eAccess’s 3,000 retail shops as a way to cross-sell Yahoo Premium services. (Yahoo Japan’s business model includes selling ads on mobile devices, so the more devices that are generally in play the better — so long as users are accessing Yahoo services.)
“We figured that we need to be a traditional operator to have a complete control over devices, plans and sales channels,” said Manabu Miyasaka, president and CEO of Yahoo Japan.
The shops will be turned into Y! Mobile shops, and as well as phones, they will sell the Yahoo Premium service — which is required to use some services on Yahoo Japan, such as its auction site.
The retail network will also be used to encourage phone buyers to pre-load Yahoo’s mobile apps on their devices — so just like every other carrier under the sun, Yahoo’s got its own brand of crapware to push on users.
TechCrunch’s Ken Nishimura contributed to this article