Japan-based Softbank has announced that its Hong Kong-listed vehicle will make a foray into a still nascent area of the Internet sector: the enabling of off-line businesses in Asia to move on-line. Softbank, the world's largest Internet company, said newly acquired Cheung Wah Development would focus on helping Asian companies reinvent themselves into Internet businesses. Cheung Wah shareholders yesterday approved Softbank's takeover. The Hong Kong company, to be renamed Softbank International Investment (Strategic), will also introduce its new parent's successful Internet brands - such as Etrade and Morningstar - into the region outside Japan. Softbank said the company would transform 30 major companies and numerous smaller companies into Web-enabled businesses within two years. Softbank International would take 10 per cent stakes in the companies and provide 'backbone' services that would enable them to become e-commerce businesses. 'We will not be an [application service provider],' said Steve Chang, a director of Softbank's Hong Kong unit. 'We will provide the value-added services, which would account for 50 per cent of the revenues in any deal.' Softbank believes that 'Net-trans' is the latest sweet spot in Internet investing, citing the examples of US companies Barnes & Noble and Ziff-Davis, whose Internet arms were valued at more than their traditional businesses after being spun-off. Vice-president and chief financial officer of Softbank Yoshitaka Kitao said the effort would focus on the mainland and it would seek to improve the value of state-owned enterprises by bringing them into the Internet sphere. 'We see the greatest potential in China,' Mr Kitao said. 'I think [Beijing] would be very supportive.' But one of Softbank International's first targets is expected to be the Lai Sun Group of companies. Market sources said it would take a 10 per cent stake in Lai Sun Hotels through a share-swap arrangement. Lai Sun Hotels shares closed at $3.15 before they were suspended from trading yesterday. The price represented a 350 per cent increase from the two-month low at $0.70. In a separate transaction, Lai Sun Hotels is to buy into atv.com from its parent Lai Sun Development in a move that could transform it into a hi-tech unit, according to sources. Lai Sun Development owns 16.7 per cent of Asia Television, which owns atv.com. Lai Sun Development and Lai Sun Garment (International) shares were suspended from trading yesterday. The companies of the Lai Sun group yesterday said a joint announcement concerned proposed acquisitions by Lai Sun Development and Lai Sun Hotels of Internet-related assets and connected transactions involving the issue of shares in Lai Sun Development. Softbank director Junichi Goto confirmed the two companies would 'have a future relationship', but would not comment further. Mr Kitao indicated that Chinadotcom and its locally listed subsidiary Hongkong.com would become strategic partners in its new 'Net-trans' venture. 'They're very interested in this venture,' Mr Kitao said. He said retail business would be the first they would move on-line. Softbank is expected today to announce five new tie-ups with companies in Hong Kong and around the region.