* Softbank to buy majority in Sprint - source
* Deal would give Softbank cheaper access to smartphones -media
(Adds source, no comment from Softbank, background)
TOKYO, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Softbank Corp , Japan'sthird-largest mobile carrier, is in talks to buy a majoritystake in U.S. telecoms company Sprint Nextel Corp in adeal worth more than 1 trillion yen ($12.8 billion), a sourcewith direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Thursday.
A Softbank spokeswoman told Reuters the company had noimmediate comment and was checking earlier local media reportson the talks. No one from Sprint was immediately available forcomment.
Sprint Nextel, worth $15.12 billion at Wednesday's close, isthe third-largest U.S. carrier, and had more than 56 millionusers at end-June. Sprint is considering a counter-bid forwireless service provider MetroPCS, which has agreed to mergewith Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile USA, a source toldReuters earlier this week.
Softbank, founded and led by Masayoshi Son - Japan'ssecond-richest man, according to Forbes - was the first ofJapan's leading mobile carriers to offer Apple Inc'siPhone in Japan.
The company, which has grown from a packaged softwaredistributor 30 years ago into a broad telecoms group worth morethan $40 billion, took over Vodafone Japan in 2006. Asit seeks to gain market share from rival KDDI Corp ,Softbank said earlier this month it would buy eAccess Ltd
in a $1.84 billion deal, saying this would give thefirm a total of 39 million users.
Japanese media said a Sprint deal would make it cheaper forSoftbank to procure smartphones and other mobile devices.
Japanese companies made a record 642 cross-border deals lastyear, according to Thomson Reuters data. Buoyed by a strongeryen , the value of all outbound deals rose to $69.5billion, up 81 percent from 2010, also a record.
The biggest foreign acquisition by a Japanese company todate was Japan Tobacco's 1.8 trillion yen buy of UKtobacco firm Gallaher in 2007.
(Reporting by Mari Saito, Taro Fuse and James Topham; Editingby Ian Geoghegan)
Keywords: SPRINT SOFTBANK/