Softbank To Launch Japanese Online Auto Parts Venture

Japanese Internet conglomerate Softbank Corp. announced Monday that it plans to launch an online auto parts venture for the Japanese market with a major oil company and three other partners.

Softbank will own 46 percent of the eShopping! CarGoods Corp., while oil company Nippon Mitsubishi will hold a 24 percent stake.

Additionally, Yahoo! Japan will snare a 10 percent stake and CarPoint Japan KK — an online auto brokerage joint venture between Softbank, Microsoft and Yahoo! Japan — will take five percent.

Midas Touch

Masayoshi Son, Softbank’s president, was quoted in reports as saying that the venture would be the largest auto goods store ever. Under most circumstances, such a claim would be dismissed out of hand, but Softbank’s proven ability to turn Internet start-ups into gold has observers seeing dollar signs.

The venture will allow customers to order and buy auto parts online and then pick them up at more than half of Nippon Mitsubishi’s 13,600 service stations around the country. The service, which will launch next May, will initially offer parts pickup at 200 service stations around Tokyo.

Nippon Mitsubishi will earn commissions for installing the parts and settling the payments.

Build It, Transfer It, Trade It

Additionally, Softbank has planned a joint venture with Microsoft and Tokyo Electric Power to offer low-cost Internet access in what has traditionally been a high-cost Japanese market.

The company also has struck a joint venture deal to launch Nasdaq Japan with the U.S. National Association of Securities Dealers. That relationship should work out nicely for the auto parts venture, which Softbank plans to list on the exchange when it opens at the end of next year.

These deals are just three of the dozens that Softbank has juggling in the air at any one time. The company’s portfolio consists of over 100 companies — from stakes in little-known start-ups to largest shareholder status in companies like Yahoo!, E*Trade and ZDNet.

In addition, the $45 billion (US$) Softbank is constantly plotting its own course. Last week, reports said that it would buy a bankrupt Japanese bank and launch an online bank to serve as a hub for its burgeoning financial services business.

An online toy sales venture and book sales site led by Softbank are scheduled to launch later this month, and the company is working on a myriad of ventures related to Internet infrastructure.

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