June 10, 2008 / 1:02 AM / 12 years ago

Softbank to sell new iPhone from July; shares up

TOKYO (Reuters) - Softbank Corp, Japan’s third-biggest mobile phone operator, plans to start selling Apple Inc’s new iPhone in Japan from July, an earlier launch date than expected and one that could boost demand for the device.

Softbank’ shares rose 2 percent on the announcement, combined with news that Apple would be cutting the price of its entry-level model in many countries.

“It’s coming earlier than I thought...and it’s positive that it overlaps with bonus season,” said Deutsche Securities analyst Kenji Nishiyama.

The Japan launch of the next-generation iPhone with faster Internet access is part of a rollout in 22 countries and regions next month.

Softbank had previously only said that it would sell the iPhone sometime this year.

Its landing of the iPhone contract was a coup for the aggressive operator that has grabbed market share from more established rivals NTT DoCoMo Inc and KDDI Corp Analysts expect the iPhone to boost Softbank’s brand recognition further.

The new phone also marks a dramatic departure for how Apple will make money in its third major business alongside Macintosh computers and iPod media players.

Most wireless network companies will no longer pay Apple part of the subscription fees they get from iPhone users, but instead will subsidize the devices up front to make them cheaper.

In the United States for example, an entry-level version of the new iPhone, with 8 gigabytes of memory, will cost $199, versus $399 for an older iPhone with similar memory.

Softbank said it would start selling the iPhone from July 11. Spokesmen for both Softbank and Apple Japan said they did not know the details of the Japanese contract.

Shares in Softbank were up 2.6 percent at 1,905 yen as of the midday break while the overall market was flat.

Reporting by Edwina Gibbs and Sachi Izumi; editing by Sophie Hardach

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