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Yahoo! Buys Out Softbank in Europe, Korea

Yahoo! (YHOO) agreed to buy partner Softbank out of their ventures in Europe and Korea for about $500 million.

Yahoo! also set plans to offer a new service with TiVo (TIVO) that would allow people to use Yahoo! to direct their TiVos to record television shows. The service is available starting Monday. Word of the pact sent TiVo up 11%.

The move comes as Alviso, Calif.-based TiVo contends with mounting pressure from cable companies deploying their own digital video recorders. News Corp.'s (NWS) DirecTV (DTV) recently snubbed TiVo and is expected to begin touting its own products to customers shortly. DirecTV is expected to use a competing service from NDS Group (NNDS), another News Corp.-controlled company whose technology is already deployed by Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB.

The status of TiVo's relationship with cable giant Comcast (CMCSA) is also a source of some worry for investors looking forward. In August, investors flogged TiVo after the company posted soft quarterly numbers and warned that it would have to redouble its investments to acquire subscribers.

With the Softbank move, Yahoo! gains full control over units that had operated through a joint venture.

The transactions, which are expected to close in the fourth quarter, includes Softbank's 30% stake in Yahoo! U.K., Yahoo! Germany and Yahoo! France, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company said in a statement. Yahoo! also purchased the 33% stake in Yahoo! Korea owned by Softbank, Softbank Korea and Yahoo! Japan.

"The agreement to purchase the remaining shares not already owned by Yahoo! in Europe and Asia demonstrates the confidence that we have in our international businesses and our commitment to deliver long-term shareholder value," said Yahoo! Chief Executive Terry Semel. Yahoo! Japan continues to operate as a joint venture.

Yahoo! also plans to begin offering a new cell phone through its partnership with SBC Communications (SBC), The Wall Street Journal reported, citing SBC executives. Google (GOOG) also plans to offer some of its services such as Google maps to users of some cell phones.

An SBC spokesman couldn't be immediately be reached for comment. Officials from Yahoo! and Google also couldn't be reached before regular business hours in California.

Shares of Yahoo! fell 17 cents to $37.70 in early trading, while TiVo rose 56 cents to $5.68.

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