BT `taking stake in Japan Telecom'

BRITISH TELECOM and its ally AT&T are close to paying 150bn yen (pounds 800m) for a 30 per cent stake in Japan Telecom, a senior official at the Japanese company said yesterday.

All three companies declined to comment yesterday on reports in the Japanese financial newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun that BT and AT&T were about to take 20 and 10 per cent stakes respectively in Japan's fourth-largest phone company. But an official at Japan Telecom told reporters a deal could be signed by the end of this month as BT and AT&T look to expand their $10bn global alliance in Asia.

BT and AT&T, which expect this summer to complete their joint venture to sell voice and data services to multinational companies, need direct links to customers in the key Japanese market to compete with rival MCI WorldCom. They would be the first foreign companies to become major shareholders in a Japanese telecommunications company. Japan's phone companies are seeking help to compete with Nippon Telegraph & Telephone after its split into three companies in July.

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