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Sunday, 16 September, 2001, 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK
Vodafone to make J-Phone offer
Japanese mobile phone user
Japan is the world's second largest mobile phone market
British mobile phone giant Vodafone plans to raise its stake in Japan Telecom to 66.7% from 45% in an offer to be announced on Monday, a Japanese newspaper reported on Sunday.

Vodafone will try to buy about 220bn yen (1.28bn, $1.85bn) worth of shares in Japan Telecom, Japan's third-largest telecoms firm, to give it a controlling stake, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun business daily said.

Vodafone, the world's largest mobile operator, has made clear its desire to control Japan Telecom's crown jewel, the wireless unit J-Phone.

Vodafone is expected to announce the offer on Monday, when the New York Stock Exchange reopens for the first time since terror attacks in the US last Tuesday, the paper said.

A Vodafone spokesperson contacted by BBC News Online declined to comment on the report.

Expansion plans

At an analysts' briefing about two weeks ago, Vodafone's Chief Executive Chris Gent gave strong hints that controlling Japan Telecom was the company's next aim.

Since last year, Vodafone has been lifting its stakes in Japan Telecom and its wireless units, consolidating its foothold in the world's second-largest telecoms market.

J-Phone plans to launch 3G services next June which offers Vodafone the chance to get hands-on experience in third-generation (3G) mobile services, which promise super-fast data and voice transmission.

A larger stake would also allow Vodafone to remove Japan Telecom executives and to sell those fixed-line operations it considers unprofitable.

The deal

Vodafone will control 39.7% of J-Phone after mobile company is consolidated into a single company on 1 November.

In Monday's announcement Vodafone is expected offer to buy Japan Telecom shares at a 10% premium to the market price.

East Japan Railway, the second-largest shareholder in Japan Telecom, is likely to sell two-thirds of its 15.1% stake, the paper said.

JR East officials could not be reached for comment and Japan Telecom officials said they could not comment.

Shares in Japan Telecom, which also offers fixed-line and internet services, closed up 7.3% on Friday.

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See also:

02 May 01 | Business
Vodafone pays 4.8bn for BT stakes
18 Jun 01 | Business
Mobile price war hits Japan
29 May 01 | Business
Vodafone posts 4bn profit
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