updated 11/7/2005 8:40:15 AM ET 2005-11-07T13:40:15

Yahoo Inc. said Monday it will buy the shares of its local portals in three European countries and South Korea that it doesn't already own for about $500 million, taking complete ownership of the Web sites.

The company said it reached a deal with Softbank Holdings Ltd. to purchase its 30 percent stake in Yahoo U.K., Yahoo Germany and Yahoo France. It also said it would also buy a 33 percent stake in Yahoo Korea from Softbank Corp., Softbank Korea Corp. and Yahoo Japan Corp.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo said it would pay Softbank approximately $500 million for the stakes.

The agreement "demonstrates the confidence we have in our international businesses and our commitment to deliver long-term shareholder value," said Yahoo Chairman and Chief Executive Terry Semel.

"By buying out Softbank's JV interests, our strategic flexibility to take advantage of international growth opportunities in Korea and Europe will be enhanced and this new structure should lead to a more efficient longer-term operating and tax model."

The purchases are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Yahoo is one of the world's largest Internet portal operators, with some 345 million people using its mix of search engines, news sites and online shopping.

The company offers users customized Web pages, e-mail and message boards and publishes its content in 15 languages in 20 countries.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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