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Softbank strikes distribution deal with Ingram

Japanese giant stiffens home operations as ZD takes a hit

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Softbank Corp, the Japanese company controlled by Masayoshi Son ("the Bill Gates of Japan") and which owns 71 per cent of Ziff-Davis Inc, 35 per cent of Geocities, and 31 per cent of Yahoo, signed an agreement with Ingram Micro this morning to cooperate on distribution. As part of the arrangement, there will be an exchange of $50 million shares in each company. Softbank shares on the Tokyo exchange rose 4 per cent to yen 5,150. Softbank is the largest software distributor in Japan.

Last month Softbank's acquired an unquoted Japanese brokerage as part of its move to process online financial transactions in conjunction with E*Trade KK, a joint venture with the US E*Trade parent. Meanwhile, Ziff is experiencing difficulties, and decided last week to close three trade mags, and terminate 350 staff (10 per cent). This follows a Q4 profit warning and a 28 per cent fall in the share price last week. Lower ad revenues were blamed. Ziff floated this year at $15.50, but reached a low of $3.625 last week. In an act that was too little too late, Ziff reduced the option price for employees to $6/share to reflect the fall in its share price.

Ziff is considering an Internet spin-off, but is rather late in coming to the idea and there is no good record for such things to have been successful in the past. The role model for Ziff is CNET, which is younger and considerably richer than Ziff: CNET's market capitalisation is around $630 million, whereas the venerable Ziff is worth less than $400 million. ® Click for more stories

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