Reports: Softbank Near Deal to Buy Bank

TOKYO (06/05/2000) - Three days after government officials announced Tokyo-based Internet investment company Softbank Corp. had failed to clinch a deal to take over a debt-ridden bank, local media has reported the two sides are close to an agreement.

"We have come up with solutions on important issues and talks have moved forward," an unnamed official at one of the three companies in the consortium told the Kyodo News Service.

Quoting sources close to the deal, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun went one step further in a report in its Saturday evening edition and said a deal had been reached after the Softbank-led consortium dropped demands that public funds be used to cover loan-loss reserves at the bank.

Spokespersons for both Softbank and the Financial Reconstuction Commission (FRC), the government unit supervising the sale of the bank, declined to comment on the report and would offer no update on the state of talks between the two parties when reached for comment this morning.

Softbank is looking to acquire Nippon Credit Bank (NCB) to further its activities in the financial sector. The company has already launched a wide array of financial and investment services firms online and is eyeing the creation of an Internet bank. By acquiring NCB, Softbank would gain the banking license it needs to start such a venture.

NCB was nationalized after going bankrupt in late 1998 on massive losses from bad loans. Since that time the FRC has been attempting to find a buyer for the bank and, earlier this year, granted priority bidding rights to the consortium led by Softbank, which also includes Orix Corp. and Tokio [CQ] Marine and Fire Insurance Co.

The consortium had until May 31 to come up with an agreement to buy the bank or lose priority bidding rights and face possible competition from other interested parties. At a Tokyo press conference last Thursday the FRC announced the two sides had failed to reach a deal. [See "Softbank in Stalemate over Nippon Credit," June 1].

A final agreement could be signed this week, said the reports.

Softbank, in Tokyo, is online at http://www.softbank.co.jp/.

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