Rakuten makes play for Tokyo net

Parties started lenghty discussions Monday

In a replay of Internet giant Livedoor’s takeover bid for Fuji Television in February, Tokyo Broadcasting System is fending off Japanese netco Rakuten.

Rakuten, headed by Hiroshi Mikitani, spent ¥100 billion ($826 million) over seven weeks building up a 19% stake in TBS (Daily Variety, Nov. 4). But rather than launching a full takeover, on Monday the two parties started what is likely to be several months of discussions on business ties.

As a sign of goodwill, Rakuten has placed half of its TBS shares in a bank trust. Truce was brokered by Mizuho Corp. Bank.

“It is not good for Rakuten and TBS to face each other in a hostile manner without holding talks,” Mikitani told a news conference, although he reserved the right to break with Japanese corporate tradition and launch a hostile bid if the talks fail.

At a separate conference, TBS prexy Hiroshi Inoue said: “It is easy to speak of (the possibility of) fusing broadcasting with the Internet, but it is hard to actually realize this.”

Net, however, seems more scared of being tied to a single partner.

TBS has recently held talks with media players including Mitsui & Co., Culture Convenience Club Co. and Dentsu, concerning Internet ventures.

Livedoor’s attack on Fuji was more hostile from the get-go but resulted in a joint committee to discuss areas of cooperation.

Nine months on, Livedoor boss Takafumi Horie has offered to be mediator in the TBS-Rakuten standoff.

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