February 25, 2024

DealBook: SoftBank Chief Is Defiant as Dish Challenges His Bid for Sprint

Masayoshi Son, the chief of SoftBank, the Japanese telecommunications company.Yuya Shino/ReutersMasayoshi Son, the chief of SoftBank, the Japanese telecommunications company.

Earlier this month, Charles W. Ergen’s Dish Network made a bold bid to pre-empt Softbank’s $20 billion bid for Sprint Nextel with its own offer.

But SoftBank‘s outspoken chief executive, Masayoshi Son, said on Tuesday that his proposal would prevail — unmodified.

It is the first time that the Japanese telecommunications mogul has spoken out since Dish surprised many with a $25.5 billion offer for Sprint, the country’s third-biggest cellphone service provider.

Dish has said that its cash-and-stock bid for all of Sprint, valued at $7 a share, would create a new wireless titan whose phone, data and video services would rival those from Verizon Wireless and ATT.

For now, Mr. Son insists that his proposal, a two-step process that would leave 30 percent of Sprint publicly traded, is straightforward and can be closed by mid-July. (The first part of the process, in which SoftBank invested $3.1 billion in the American company to keep it afloat, has already been competed.)

“Charlie’s proposal does not provide any new cash into the company, and it provides heavy burden of debt,” Mr. Son said in a telephone interview. “I believe our deal will go through.”

Mr. Son insisted that he was not surprised by the arrival of Mr. Ergen, who has publicly amassed a cash hoard that many assumed would finance some sort of acquisition. Though Dish had already made a play for Clearwire, Mr. Son said he guessed that the satellite-TV company had even bigger ambitions.

“My guess was right,” he said.

He repeatedly attacked Dish’s bid as unworkable and his rival’s numbers as misleading. By his own reckoning, factoring in both cost savings and potential costs like delays, SoftBank’s offer was worth $7.65 a share, while Dish’s was valued at $6.31.

Chief among Mr. Son’s criticisms was the amount of debt that the interloping offer would pile on to Sprint, which he estimated at $50 billion. In a long presentation to SoftBank’s shareholders, Mr. Son argued that his proposal would increase Sprint’s debt by three times, while Dish’s would do so by nearly six times.

“It would be prohibitively high debt,” he said.

Dish has proudly trumpeted the amount of wireless spectrum the combined company would control, but Mr. Son said that the holdings would be wastefully excessive and expensive to maintain. And it would still require spending what he estimated was $6 billion to upgrade Sprint’s network.

And Mr. Son contended that Mr. Ergen, a wily deal maker whose net worth Forbes estimates is more than $10 billion, is an amateur when it comes to the mobile industry. By contrast, he pointed repeatedly to SoftBank’s rise over the last seven years to become one of Japan’s three biggest wireless companies.

Still, much of SoftBank’s hopes are tied to Sprint’s bid to buy the remainder of Clearwire, an offer that has drawn significant shareholder opposition.

Mr. Son dismissed concerns about the proposal’s fate, saying that Sprint has not signaled any desire or need to raise its offer of $2.97 a share. The company can’t raise its bid without the blessing of its benefactor, SoftBank.

In the worst-case scenario, Sprint will raise its ownership in Clearwire to about 65 percent from 50 percent through agreements to buy out partners in the company, including Intel and Brighthouse.

Speaking of dissident investors who think Sprint’s offer is too low, Mr. Son said, “They can stay as shareholders for however long they want. We are happy with just 65 percent.”

Article source: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/04/30/softbank-chief-is-defiant-as-dish-challenges-his-bid-for-sprint/?partner=rss&emc=rss

DealBook: Crowd-Funding Merger Points to Ambitions in Latin America

SAO PAULO — Buenos Aires-based crowd-funding site Ideame has acquired Brazilian company Movere, in a deal that may prompt more consolidation in this sector in Latin America.

One-year-old Ideame said it had acquired 100 percent of Movere’s shares in exchange for 15 percent of Ideame’s stock, valued at about $ 2.5 million. Movere, based in Rio de Janeiro, is thought to be Brazil’s second largest crowd-funding site.

While most Latin America’s crowd-funding sites are country-specific, Ideame is trying to become a top player for the entire region. It started at the same time in Argentina, Chile, and Mexico.

The Ideame acquisition comes as the popularity and success of Kickstarter in the United States has been fueling the development of similar sites throughout the world.

Kickstarter, backed by Union Square Ventures, recently said that it would expand to Britain this year but for now it operates only in the United States. While anyone in the world can fund projects on the site, only United States residents can create them because of the requirements of the payment provider, Amazon.com.

Kickstarter declined to comment if it had plans to expand to Latin America.

Ideame registered 117,000 total unique visitors in July, according to comScore data. (The company did not exist last July.) Brazil’s leading crowd-sourcing site, Catarse, notched 104,000 from 21,000 in July 2011. In comparison, Kickstarters’ Web traffic in Latin America grew to 194,000 last month, from 31,000 total unique visitors in July 2011.

Ideame was founded in 2011. One of the founders, Mariano Suarez Battan, previously founded Buenos Aires-based Three Melons, which was sold to Playdom in 2010 before The Walt Disney Company acquired Playdom. Another founder, Tiburcio de la Carcova co-founded Chile-based Atakama Labs, sold to Japan’s DeNA last year.

The two other founders are Juan Pablo Cappello, a Chilean lawyer, and Eduardo Costantini Jr., a filmmaker and son of the founder of the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, or Malba.

The company’s investors, who have raised more than $1 million, include the founders and Lawence Benenson, who is with Benenson Capital Partners and a trustee at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Others include Andy Kleinman, former head of Zynga’s Latin America operations, and Wences Casares, Lemon co-founder and iconic figure for Latin American entrepreneurs.

Movere said in its first 15 months it received more than $300,000 in funds pledged. Out of 143 projects, 60 reached their funding goal. The two companies combined have $420,000 pledged.

Ideame had also initially registered in Brazil, contemplating growing here solo. But Mr. Cappello said in an interview that they ultimately decided that “ Brazil is not a market that goes well when you don’t have a local presence.”

One challenge Ideame faces in becoming a regional crowd-funding player is integrating payment systems which vary from country to country.

For example, it uses Dineromail for Chile and Mexico, MercadoPago for Argentina, and MoIP for Brazil.

Rebecca Plofker, Ideame’s business development head said in an interview that it now has an agreement with PayPal for transactions across countries and 20 percent of their contributions currently use the service, a figure she expects to increase.

Article source: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/08/24/crowd-funding-merger-points-to-ambitions-in-latin-america/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Using Soap Operas, Jeff Kwatinetz Plans an Online TV Network

Then he hit a wall. The Firm, Mr. Kwatinetz’s forward-thinking version of a talent management company, imploded in 2008. It was the victim of outsize ambitions most prominently exhibited in an ill-fated takeover of Michael Ovitz’s Artist Management Group.

Now comes Act 2.

After a quiet few years, Mr. Kwatinetz, 46, is again kicking up dust here, and this time he is trying to change the face of television. Prospect Park, his new production and management company, plans to introduce in January the Online Network, a channel that is piped into homes via the Internet.

It is a bold bet that the Web — because of the proliferation of broadband, Internet-enabled TVs and the iPad — is now a practical way to funnel traditional shows to viewers. The channel will initially feature new episodes of the soap operas “One Life to Live” and “All My Children,” both canceled by ABC but saved by Mr. Kwatinetz in a last-minute deal. Other shows are planned.

“Seeing the music business morph as it did allows me to see, perhaps earlier than some, what is happening to television,” Mr. Kwatinetz said in an interview. “A lot of the same mistakes are being made, and in that is opportunity.”

Mr. Kwatinetz (pronounced KWAH-tin-ets) thinks that television companies, like the record labels before them, are moving too slowly to embrace how viewers want to consume their content: with ease, everywhere. Networks have followed their customers online, but only to a point; the goal is to protect existing revenue streams at all costs.

Mr. Kwatinetz, who has a Harvard law degree, talks about the Internet as a pure distribution play. Too many media companies, he says, treat Web users as a different class of customer and serve them entertainment based on how they are obtaining it rather than what they might like. If the popularity of streamed 30-minute and 60-minute shows on Netflix and Hulu is any indication, consumers are ready to move beyond using the Web for bite-size video, he said.

Hearing Mr. Kwatinetz speak about Hollywood’s future can seem like a fascinating college lecture — and, in fact, he teaches a media course at Northwestern University. But he faces enormous hurdles in realizing his goals.

For starters, he needs to raise the money. The Online Network is intended to be financed by Prospect Park, which Mr. Kwatinetz said was profitable, and outside partners. He does not yet have all of those investors lined up — he won’t say how much money he is seeking — but independent investment bankers who have been briefed on Mr. Kwatinetz’s plans said there was strong interest.

Another hurdle: Prospect Park wants to introduce the Online Network in mid-January, when “One Life to Live” is scheduled to end its run on ABC. (“All My Children” concluded last month.) Mr. Kwatinetz still needs to complete deals with various unions to move the shows online with current cast members. Whether the longtime star of “All My Children,” Susan Lucci, will stay is unclear, and negotiations with her continue.

Plans call for new episodes to be streamed on the Web site and then made available on living room on-demand systems and, a few weeks later, on a traditional cable channel. Mr. Kwatinetz intends to make additional money by selling advertising and syndicating the shows to other Web sites like Hulu or Google.

Some people in Hollywood are rolling their eyes about the network, which Prospect Park plans to brand as “TOLN.” Isn’t Mr. Kwatinetz the same person who, a decade ago, went around boasting that the Firm was the next AOL Time Warner? Are viewers — especially older soap opera fans — truly ready to get their shows from a Web site?

But some powerful figures are taking Mr. Kwatinetz seriously, and point out that it was the soap operas that helped ease the transition from radio to television.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=08522f0545275c21babfa0c3d97a26f5

Google Reaches Deal With 2nd French Publisher

PARIS — A second French publisher has reached a deal on digital books with Google to settle a copyright lawsuit in exchange for control over how its out-of-print, copyright-protected works are scanned and sold.

Such works account for the vast majority of the world’s books, and they are central to Google’s ambitions of creating a universal digital information repository. But its digitization project has prompted numerous lawsuits by publishers seeking to enforce their copyrights.

On Thursday, the French publisher La Martinière said that it had agreed to split revenue from digital sales of these books with Google. The accord comes after a similar agreement between Google and Hachette Livre, the largest French publisher.

In 2009, La Martinière won a ruling against Google in a Paris court that awarded the publisher 300,000 euros ($420,000), and ordered Google to stop scanning its books. Google appealed that decision, but the two companies said Thursday that they had agreed to end the litigation.

Philippe Colombet, director of Google Books in France, said that the deal would allow the company to move forward “in a constructive fashion, to the benefit of French authors and readers.”

“This collaboration is an important step in our relations with French publishers and contributes to the preservation and the flourishing of French culture,” he said in a statement.

The settlement comes as Google struggles to reach an agreement with United States publishers and authors on out-of-print, copyright-protected works. Last winter, the judge overseeing the case, Denny Chin, rejected a settlement proposal that had already been revised, and talks have bogged down since then.

Like the Hachette deal, the agreement with La Martinière is different from the proposed settlement in the United States that Judge Chin rejected in at least one important way: it lets the publisher choose which works can be scanned or sold. Under the American proposal, Google was free to digitize and sell any works unless the copyright holders opted out.

“This agreement is very important, it seems to me, because it reaffirms respect for authors and, more broadly, for intellectual property,” said Hervé de la Martinière, president of the publishing house. Google had said it hoped that the Hachette deal would be a model for other agreements with European publishers. But it still faces a lawsuit by three French publishers, Albin Michel, Flammarion and Gallimard, that say that Google scanned thousands of their works without permission.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=c4905fceb59aea548ff374ea80975d39

Coaching for Chinese Students Looking to the U.S.

For answers, she turned to ThinkTank Learning, a college admission consulting company from California that had recently opened an office in Shenzhen, which is next door to Hong Kong.

“I wanted American professionals to look at my application and shed some new light on how I could make it better,” she said.

The price was steep: 100,000 renminbi, or $15,000. But it came with a 100 percent money-back guarantee — if Ms. Lu was rejected from the nine selective U.S. universities to which she applied, her family would get a full refund.

Ms. Lu brainstormed with a ThinkTank consultant on ways to redo her admissions essay, which had originally been about playing badminton. The new version she came up with focused on a cross-strait dialogue conference that Ms. Lu had organized with high schoolers in Taiwan.

Happily for Ms. Lu and for ThinkTank, the new approach worked. She has just completed her first year at the University of Pennsylvania.

As a record number of students
from outside the United States compete for a limited number of spots at the most selective American colleges, companies like ThinkTank are seeking to profit from their ambitions.

In the United States, students have long turned to independent college counselors, but in recent years, larger outfits have entered the market, offering full-service designer courses, extracurricular activities and focused application assistance. These services have spread to the fast-growing and lucrative market in China.

With China sending more students to American colleges than any other country, the competition for spots at the top schools has soared. During the 2009-10 academic year, 39,947 Chinese undergraduates were studying in the United States, a 52 percent increase from the year before and about five times as many as five years earlier, according to the Institute of International Education, a U.S. organization.

But students from China can find themselves ill-prepared for the admissions process at American colleges. The education system in mainland China focuses on assiduous preparation for the national university entrance exam, the gaokao, often at the expense of extracurricular activities.

About 400 overseas education agencies — including joint Chinese-foreign schools, language training centers and college application consulting agencies — are certified by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The ministry is affiliated with the two largest application consulting agencies in China, the China Center for International Education Exchange and Chivast Education International.

Some of these agencies offer to write their clients’ college essays from scratch, train them for alumni interviews and even modify student transcripts, consultants have said.

Capitalizing on the increasingly globalized education system, ThinkTank Learning has tapped into the market in the United States and China.

The founder of the company is Steven Ma, 32, a former Wall Street analyst who started the company as a business for preparing students for college entrance tests in 2002 before expanding into application consulting in 2006, starting with seven students. In 2010, that number had risen to 300, including 75 from China. The company said it made about $7 million last year, with 50 percent from admission consulting.

ThinkTank said it was able to distill the college admissions process into an exact science, which Mr. Ma compared with genetic engineering. “We make unnatural stuff happen,” he said.

Students, whose parents often pay tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, are molded by ThinkTank into well-rounded, socially conscious overachievers through a regimen often beginning as early as Grade 8. The company designs extracurricular activities for the students; guides them in essay writing; tutors them for the SAT, the U.S. college admission exam; and helps them with meet-and-greet sessions with alumni.

“There’s a system built by colleges designed to pick out future stars and we are here to crack that system,” Mr. Ma said.

LuShuang Xu provides an example of that approach.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/30/business/global/30college.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Chinese Warship May Be Nearly Ready

The photos of the carrier, the Varyag, which China bought from Ukraine in 1998, appeared Wednesday on the Web site of Xinhua, the state news agency.

It was the first time that Xinhua had given visual evidence of the carrier project, which is widely seen as a linchpin of China’s military modernization and naval ambitions. The country’s efforts have raised fears among foreign governments that China will use a more robust military for expansionist purposes or to press for regional dominance.

Xinhua cited a military analysis magazine based in Canada, Kanwa Asian Defense Review, as saying that the ship would be ready to sail this year. The fact that Xinhua used that information in a photo caption appeared to be an official endorsement of that view.

Xinhua’s headline with the photos said: “Huge warship on the verge of setting out, fulfilling China’s 70-year aircraft carrier dreams.” One caption said: “A few days ago, domestic online military forums consecutively published photographs of the Varyag aircraft carrier being reconstructed at China’s Dalian shipyard. From the pictures, we can see that this project is entering its final stage.” The caption noted that construction on the ship’s bridge was almost done, with the exception of a radar system.

The online sites it referred to are discussion forums used by Chinese military enthusiasts.

Andrei Chang, the founder of the Canadian magazine and a Hong Kong resident, said in a telephone interview on Thursday that the photographs published by Xinhua showed the carrier at a much more advanced stage of reconstruction than he had expected.

He said that his magazine had received photos of the carrier taken in February, but that those photographs did not show any paint on the ship’s upper structure, while the ones published by Xinhua did.

“The speed is very, very amazing,” Mr. Chang said. “It’s surprised me.”

The day before Xinhua posted the photos, another Chinese news organization, Global Times, a populist newspaper that is not considered an official Communist Party mouthpiece, ran the same photos. The images appeared first on military forums starting on Monday.

On Thursday, a Foreign Ministry spokesman was asked about the carrier photos at a regularly scheduled news conference in Beijing. “Please refer to the relevant authorities for details,” said the spokesman, Hong Lei. “I would like to emphasize that China follows a peaceful path of development.”

In January, photographs emerged on Chinese military forums of the J-20 stealth fighter, which has been under construction in Sichuan Province.

The appearance of the photos came just days before Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates visited China. Military officials tested the fighter while Mr. Gates was in Beijing, which led to a puzzling and awkward diplomatic moment between Mr. Gates and President Hu Jintao.

Jonathan Kaiman contributed research.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/08/world/asia/08carrier.html?partner=rss&emc=rss