News Corp., Softbank prep MySpace Japan

Report: Deal for site expected soon

A deal to set up a Japanese version of the hugely popular MySpace social-networking Internet site is close to being signed, a source familiar with the situation confirmed Monday.

The deal would bring together Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and Japanese Internet service firm Softbank.

The agreement is likely to be agreed to this week, according to Japanese business daily the Nihon Keizai, with the two companies each providing half of the ¥1 billion ($8.48 million) initial investment.

A spokesman for Softbank said he was aware that Murdoch was in Japan, but refused to comment on the possibility of a meeting between the head of News Corp. and Masayoshi Son, president of Softbank. "We have had dozens of calls today about this issue but we cannot say anything at all," said Takeaki Nuuki, a Softbank official.

News Corp. purchased My-Space in 2005 in a buyout of Los Angeles-based Intermix for $580 million. It clearly sees opportunities for growth in Japan, where networking sites are becoming increasingly popular. The new venture would go head-to-head with domestic outfits such as Mixi Inc., which had some 4 million members as of May.

MySpace is the world's fourth most popular English-language Web site and has more than 125 million profiles, according to recent executive comments (HR 11/2). The networking juggernaut has been expanding into international markets, including the U.K., in recent months.

Yahoo Japan Corp., a subsidiary of Softbank, already offers social networking functions, but the company has not gotten involved in the operations of the Web site.

Officials at News Corp. in New York and its Fox Interactive Media unit, which houses MySpace, declined comment Monday.

Georg Szalai in New York contributed to this report.
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