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MENAFN - AFP - 16/10/2012

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(MENAFN - AFP) Japanese mobile carrier Softbank soared in Tokyo on Tuesday as investors piled back into a stock that had been pounded since news of its 20 billion takeover of Sprint Nextel emerged last week.

At 11:00 am (0200 GMT) the shares were 10.14 percent higher at 2,499 yen (31.70).

The ambitious cross-ocean marriage would see Softbank acquire 70 percent of Sprint Nextel, the third-biggest US mobile firm behind AT&T and Verizon Wireless, by the middle of next year.

Investors dumped the shares on Friday as Softbank confirmed it was in talks with Sprint, amid concerns about how it would finance the purchase and the strategy behind the monster deal.

Softbank stock tumbled 17 percent on Friday and then 5.3 percent on Monday before the deal was confirmed.

Tuesday's spike may be largely driven by bargain hunters looking to pick up the embattled stock on the cheap.

"Now that the deal is official, some share buyback momentum is likely," said a senior strategist at a Japanese brokerage.

Chief executive Masayoshi Son, a well-known tech entrepreneur and Japan's second-richest man, acknowledged on Monday that his firm was jumping into the US mobile market where it has no foothold or experience, and taking over a heavily indebted firm that lost 2.89 billion last year.

"This will be a big challenge -- when you take on a big challenge, it comes with big risks," Son told a news conference in Tokyo on Monday. "However, maybe avoiding the challenge is a larger risk."

Some analysts noted there was little overlap between the two carriers and few areas to cut duplication costs in the combined firm, which will have about 90 million subscribers.

Moody's and Standard & Poor's both put Softbank's credit rating under review for a possible downgrade, saying it would heap pressure on an already debt-heavy balance sheet.

However Sprint chief executive Dan Hesse, who will continue to run the US business, said the deal was a "transformative transaction", giving Sprint liquidity to remain competitive in a US field dominated by AT&T and Verizon.

The agreement catapults Softbank, little known outside Japan, to third spot globally among cellular firms after China Mobile and Verizon, based on mobile telecom service revenue.

While the deal has raised eyebrows among some analysts and investors, others have said it may prove to be an astute move.

"This has the potential to transform the Softbank Group into a behemoth straddling Japan, the US, and Asia," Credit Suisse analyst Hitoshi Hayakawa told Dow Jones Newswires.

"This opening for industry realignment on a historic scale presents a excellent opportunity to invest."

Softbank's aggressive acquisition strategy saw it buy the struggling Japanese arm of Vodafone for about 1.75 trillion yen (22.2 billion at current exchange rates) in 2006, while it has announced plans to buy smaller rival eAccess Ltd for 2.3 billion.

Japanese firms have embarked on a spending spree in recent years on the back of slowing domestic demand and a surging yen, which hit record highs against the dollar late last year and remains strong.

Japan Inc. has notched up about 66 billion in overseas acquisitions so far this year, on track to surpass last year's record of 84 billion, according to data provider Dealogic.

Japan Tobacco paid about 19 billion for Britain's Gallaher Group Plc in 2007, the biggest overseas deal by a Japanese firm at the time.


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