JAPAN | Softbank buys stake in wind power company

Posted on July 27, 2011

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JAPAN | ASAHI SHIMBUN | 27 July 2011

Softbank Corp., whose entry into solar power fueled a drive for renewable energy sources, has invested 1 billion yen ($12.8 million) to become the leading shareholder in a wind power company, sources said.

Softbank in June acquired newly issued shares for a 44-percent stake in Green Power Investment Corp. (GPI), which is also funded by Mitsubishi Corp., Development Bank of Japan Inc. and other parties.

GPI operates a wind power farm in Otsuki, Kochi Prefecture, and has also invested in wind power generation in Europe. But the company has faced financial problems, the sources told The Asahi Shimbun on July 25.

Softbank hopes to make up for its lack of expertise in the power generation industry by solidifying its business strategies for both wind and solar power generation.

It plans to use the accumulated knowledge of GPI rather than control its management, and eventually set up its own company that operates power generation facilities, the sources said.

On July 13, Softbank co-founded a “natural energy council” with 35 prefectures across Japan to recommend policies for the diffusion of natural energy sources.

Softbank plans to set up solar power plants on unused plots of land, which some participating local governments will help locate.

By the end of this year, Softbank intends to start tests to verify the performance of solar panels in Obihiro, Hokkaido Prefecture.

Masayoshi Son, Softbank’s chairman and CEO, has been making headlines since the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake disabled the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and heightened public fears about the safety of nuclear energy.

Not only has he pushed for renewable energy sources in Japan, but he also donated 10 billion yen of his personal assets for relief and rebuilding following the disaster.

Of that amount, 4 billion yen is used to run the “foundation for the assistance of rebuilding from the Great East Japan Earthquake.”

On July 25, Son announced an activities plan for the foundation that emphasizes long-term assistance to children who parents died in the earthquake and tsunami.

Son will cover the foundation’s personnel and other costs separately.

The foundation will provide 160 million yen to subsidize small-size child-assistance groups.

It will also subsidize all cellphone costs, irrespective of the carrier, for children who lost both parents in the disaster until they reach 18 years old. The foundation also plans to hold counseling sessions on child care.

The remaining 6 billion yen of Son’s donation will be given to the Japanese Red Cross Society, local governments in disaster areas and other related parties.

“I thought that, even if I were to be misunderstood and criticized, it would still be better to declare my commitment so that chains of assistance can spread throughout the affected areas,” Son told a news conference.

Organizers of the foundation also include baseball legend Sadaharu Oh, chairman of the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks baseball team, and Masahiro Nakai, a member of entertainment group SMAP who appears in Softbank’s TV ads.

“The important thing is to keep thinking about the affected areas,” Nakai said. “I hope that the commitment by Son, by Oh and by myself will help somebody else to decide to become committed to the cause.”

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Posted in: JAPAN