updated 11/7/2006 8:51:14 AM ET 2006-11-07T13:51:14

Japanese Internet and telecoms group Softbank Corp. and News Corp. said Tuesday they will tie up to offer the MySpace.com online community site in Japan.

The two companies have agreed to set-up a 50-50 joint venture for MySpace in Japan, Softbank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son told a news conference. The venture aims to start the service next year, and eventually extend it to cell phones.

News Corp. bought MySpace.com, which is popular with teenagers, last year for an estimated $580 million, and it is one of the Internet’s fastest-growing properties with now more than 125 million users worldwide.

“Softbank will help add functions and services to MySpace that would meet the needs of Japanese users,” said Son, who in 1996 partnered with News Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch to buy a stake in a Japanese TV network.

MySpace will challenge in a growing market led by Mixi Inc., the biggest local player in such online network services that let users post blogs and share photos online.

As of September, Mixi had 5.7 million subscribers, accounting for 86 percent of Japan’s social-networking market.

Softbank, Japan’s second-biggest provider of high-speed Internet access, owns 41 percent of Yahoo Japan Corp., the country’s most popular Web site, and this year bought a local mobile phone operator from Vodafone Group Plc.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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