1st February 2018 - SoftBank Group Corp. said yesterday it has agreed to take a majority stake in Line Corp.’s mobile unit for an undisclosed sum.

The deal, to be finalized around March, will give SoftBank Corp, the Japanese telecommunications and technology conglomerate’s mobile phone subsidiary 51 percent ownership of low-cost carrier Line Mobile Corp. through an issuance of new shares. Line, which operates the messaging application of the same name, will hold the remaining 49 percent.

Competition in the Japanese telecoms market has ramped up in recent years with the emergence of virtual network operators which buy capacity from the three major carriers NTT Docomo Inc., KDDI Corp. and SoftBank at wholesale prices and sell to users.

Line Application for SmartPhones

Line Application for SmartPhones

The tie-up between SoftBank and Line is part of an industry-wide reshuffle, with e-commerce giant Rakuten Inc. acquiring low-cost carrier brand Freetel and announcing in December it intends to become the country’s fourth major carrier.

Line separately said last night it had established a new financial unit that will make loans and sell insurance, with plans to set up a cryptocurrency exchange.

The announcement comes in the wake of the theft last week of roughly $530 million in virtual currency from a Tokyo-based exchange.