Morningstar Inc. said Thursday that Softbank Corp. has agreed to invest $91 million to accelerate the growth of the fund-rating company's Internet business.

The deal, signed late Wednesday, would give the Japanese software distributor a 20% ownership interest in privately held Morningstar of Chicago. Yoshitaka Kitao, the chief financial officer of Softbank, will sit on Morningstar's board.

As part of a joint venture with Softbank, Morningstar has been rating Japanese mutual funds for 18 months. Joe Mansueto, the chairman and founder of Morningstar, said his company decided to accept Softbank's offer in order to develop its Internet business.

In the past, he said, Morningstar has always said it would "just grow the business from internal cash flow."

With its current cash and the Softbank investment, Morningstar would have more than $100 million to help finance its growth on the Internet. Mr. Mansueto said there is no plan to seek capital from other investors.

Morningstar may also buy Internet-based firms to help it expand, Mr. Mansueto said. The company plans to create a list of potential targets, but it is "a little premature to name names," he said.

A spokesman for Softbank could not be reached to comment.

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