Business & Finance

Ripplewood Holdings, the US investment fund, agreed to sell Japan Telecom Co., that nation's No. 3 land-line telephone company, for $3 billion in cash and assumption of debt. The buyer: Softbank Corp., a Tokyo broadband Internet service provider that reportedly has been weighing an entry into the cellphone industry as well. Ripplewood has owned Japan Telecom for less than a year after acquiring it for $2.3 billion in what at the time was the largest leveraged buyout in Japanese history. Meanwhile, a published report that another US buyout specialist, the Carlyle Group, and a partner had acquired controlling interest in Japan's largest personal wireless service provider appeared to be premature. The Tokyo business journal Nihon Kezai said Carlyle and ceramics/electronics giant Kyocera Corp. of Kyoto would pay $1.97 billion for 90 percent of DDI Pocket Inc., but the latter said discussions remained incomplete.

Banking giant Wells Fargo & Co. bought scandal-ridden Strong Financial in a deal that industry analysts were calling a bargain. Although terms weren't disclosed, estimates put the sale price at between $400 million and $700 million for a mutual-fund company with assets of $34 billion. The acquisition Wednesday came after Strong and its founder, Richard Strong, settled allegations of improper trading by agreeing to pay $175 million in fines. He also accepted a lifetime ban from the mutual-fund industry. But until the deal becomes final, he still owns 85 percent of the company, which is based in the Milwaukee suburb of Menominee Falls, Wis., and will pocket some of the profit.

For the fourth time in a year, PeopleSoft Inc. spurned a takeover bid by Oracle Corp., rejecting a $7.7 billion offer Wednesday. Based on declining market value, the latest offer from Oracle, a leading maker of database management software, was for $21 per share, following earlier tenders of $16, $19.50, and $26. A civil trial on the proposed takeover is due to open June 7 in San Francisco, with the Justice Department expected to argue against it on antitrust grounds.

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