Priceline to Launch Japan Service with Softbank

TOKYO (08/01/2000) - Japanese Internet users could soon get the chance to name their own prices for goods and services after Priceline.com Inc. and Softbank E-Commerce Corp. inked a deal to launch a local version of the Web site for the Japanese market.

A new company, Priceline.com Japan Corp., has been formed by Softbank and will license Priceline's system from the American company. Initially the new company will be a wholly owned subsidiary of Softbank E-Commerce, but Priceline will match the Japanese company's 960 million [M] yen investment with the purchase of a bond that allows the company to purchase, at a later date, up to a 50 percent stake in the new Japanese unit.

The company has yet to announce a launch date, noting agreements with local airlines and government regulatory approval need to be sorted out before it can begin. Its first offerings will be airline tickets and hotels, according to a statement from Priceline.

Domestic travel is very popular in Japan, although a tightly regulated domestic airline market keeps ticket prices high and many Japanese instead travel by automobile and the country's high-speed bullet trains. Priceline's launch in Japan could boost air travel and help the nation's three major airlines fill their empty seats.

Softbank E-Commerce Corp., in Tokyo, can be contacted at +81-3-5642-8013 or online at http://www.softbankec.co.jp/. Priceline.com Inc., in Norwalk, Connecticut, can be contacted at http://www.priceline.com/.

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