Softbank Plans Chemical Industry E-Commerce in HK

Japan's Softbank Corp. today said it will purchase a controlling interest in Hong Kong-based Cheung Wah Development Company Ltd., a maker of dyes, chemicals, and textiles.

A company official at Softbank Corp. subsidiary Softbank China Investments Ltd., in Hong Kong, said the company agreed to buy 61.1 percent of Cheung Wah for approximately US$207.5 million in cash. The deal may be complete as early as March, the official said.

Softbank will explore the possibility of developing a chemical-related e-commerce Web site through Cheung Wah, according to Joseph Tong, associated director of Softbank China Investments.

"The chemical business will be one of the largest e-commerce opportunities," Tong said. He estimated chemicals and petrochemicals combined might account for 20 percent of business-to-business e-commerce over the next few years.

"We will explore the possibility of extending the company from its offline operations to online operations," Tong added. Softbank will cooperate with the current management of Cheung Wah to develop plans for the business, he said.

Softbank will not inject any of its own existing assets or businesses into Cheung Wah, Tong said.

The deal comes just days after Softbank announced it will invest $20 million in Hong Kong-based global business-to-business e-commerce company Alibaba.com Corp. The companies also will create joint ventures to expand Alibaba.com from its current English and Chinese sites to include Japanese, Korean, and several European languages.

Cheung Wah Development, in Hong Kong, can be reached at +852-2406-8913.

Softbank Corp., in Tokyo, can be reached at +81-3-5642-8000 or on the Web at http://www.softbank.co.jp/.

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