sony so-net dena

Sony Corp now directly owns 11.75% of DeNA stock, making them the second biggest shareholder (after DeNA founder Tomoko Namba with 13.09%) of the company that runs Japanese mobile social network Mobage, according to a financial report submitted to the Kanto financial affairs bureau on January 11, the Nihon Keizai Shinbun reports.

Titles on Mobage’s mobile social gaming service in Japan include Square Enix’s Final Fantasy Airborne Brigade, CardCaptor Sakura, [email protected] Cinderella Girls and, er, Super Bride Wars.

Outside of Japan, DeNA also has subsidiaries in the US and China that administer the Mobage service in those territories.

Final Fantasy Airborne Brigade

Now, before you leap to any assumptions that this means Sony has suddenly taken an interest in the Mobage mobile social gaming service, do note that those 11.75% shares of DeNA stock were not purchased directly, but rather the by-product of another acquisition – specifically, Sony Corp’s successful buy-out of all minority shareholder stock in Internet service provider and medical information website operator So-net Entertainment.

Previously, Sony Corp had already owned 58% of So-net Entertainment’s shares, making them the major shareholder. In turn, So-net Entertainment happened to own 11.75% of DeNA stock; they’ve invested in the mobile gaming service company since as far back as 1999, to be exact.

Furthermore, So-net Entertainment and Sony had actually put out a statement issued last month (December 4, 2012) stating that the former would become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the latter come January 2013, so this isn’t exactly breaking news. Although I find it curious that this particular document failed to give any information about DeNA, despite having described M3 Inc., a healthcare-focused Internet media company in Japan, as a main subsidiary of So-net’s.

In Sony’s tender offer to fully acquire So-net, published back in August 2012, it was said that the shares of healthcare-focused Internet media company M3 and those of DeNA that So-net owns “account for a relatively large part of the entire value of the Company.”

valuation report

But it appears that few had noticed the connection between Sony Corp’s move and its result – directly owning some DeNA stock – back then, prior to Nihon Keizai Shimbun’s discovery this week.

According to a story from August 2012 that  The Next Web wrote, Sony’s move to fully acquire the then-partially-owned subsidiary So-net Entertainment and delist its shares was to strengthen Sony’s network business, especially in the “key opportunities of music, pictures and games, and mobile products”.

Other reasons for the move also included to “advance the pursuit of cloud services and interactive entertainment experiences in Japan and Asia”, and that it would allow the two companies (Sony Corp and So-net) to cooperate “from the initial stage of development of products and services” in order to improve mobile devices and networking equipment. All as part of a plan to bring in new customers, and to revitalise Sony’s electronics business, The Next Web said.

Does this mean that Sony’s direct control of its 11.75% stake in DeNA will translate to significant strategy changes to Sony’s gaming businesses?

We’ll just have to wait to find out.

In the same financial document that Nikkei Keizai Shimbun referenced, it was also mentioned that the buy-out now gives Sony Corp direct access to So-net’s 55.83% stake in M3 Inc, who runs the online portals (a network for medical professionals in Japan) and (aimed at consumers), amongst other services.

Source: Nihon Keizai Shimbun


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