NTT DoCoMo to Invest in Net Bank, PlayStation.com

TOKYO (03/29/2000) - NTT Mobile Communications Network Inc., Japan's leading cellular telephone network operator, is to invest in both an Internet-based bank being established by Sakura Bank Ltd., and online games retailer PlayStation.com (Japan) Inc., the company announced late today.

The company, which is better known by its NTT DoCoMo brand name, said it plans to invest 1 billion yen (US$9.4 million) in Sakura Bank's online bank for a 5 percent stake of the company. The investment is intended to improve the convenience of its interactive i-mode service and provide a leading-edge financial information service available via cellphone, it said in a statement.

More than 230 banks and credit associations currently offer banking services through i-mode, which has attracted 5 million subscribers since it was launched just over a year ago. However most of the services don't go beyond simple functions such as allowing customers to check their balances. With a stake in the new Internet bank, NTT DoCoMo hopes it can offer customers a wider range of services.

Other shareholders in the venture, which is expected to be established within the next six months, include Sakura Bank, which will hold a 55 percent stake, Sumitomo Bank Ltd., Fujitsu Ltd and Nippon Life Insurance, each of which will hold 10 percent, and Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Mitsui & Co., both of which will have a 5 percent stake.

At the same time, the cellular operator also said it plans to invest 240 million yen for a 2.02 percent stake in PlayStation.com (Japan) Inc., an online retailer established earlier this year by Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.

(SCEI) [See "Sony's SCEI to Sell Games Online," Jan. 18].

The company sells computer games and hardware for SCEI's recently launched PlayStation 2 games console. NTT DoCoMo said its investment would help it study the sale of PlayStation-related products via i-mode and establish a cooperative alliance with a view to developing new services linking PlayStation and i-mode.

NTT DoCoMo said its investment was part of a private placement of new shares.

SCEI has yet to announce any details of the placement or other shareholders.

NTT Mobile Communications Network, in Tokyo, can be found online at http://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/.

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