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KKR mulls teaming with Japan state fund on Panasonic unit stake: WSJ

Panasonic Corp's logos are seen at an electronics store in Tokyo May 9, 2013. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
Panasonic Corp's logos are seen at an electronics store in Tokyo May 9, 2013. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

TOKYO (Reuters) - KKR & Co LP is considering teaming up with a state-backed Japanese investment fund to secure a stake in Panasonic Corp's <6752.T> healthcare business, the Wall Street Journal reported, as it seeks to assuage local misgivings about foreign buyout firms.

KKR may invest in the Panasonic unit, which makes blood monitors and other medical devices, with the Innovation Network Corp of Japan (INCJ) in a deal that may be worth as much as 150 billion yen ($1.5 billion), the newspaper said, citing unidentified sources with knowledge of the matter.

Officials at KKR and INCJ declined to comment.

Panasonic is offloading a majority stake in the profitable unit as it pulls back from outlying businesses and loss-making consumer electronics to focus on automotive components, appliances, industrial machinery and other fields where it is a leading manufacturer.

KKR, which recently raised a $6 billion Asia fund, is set to gain preferential negotiating rights for a majority stake in the healthcare business, sources told Reuters last week, in what could be its largest investment in a Japanese company.

Foreign buyout firms have struggled in the past to secure deals in Japan amid suspicion they will strip assets and lay off workers to gain the biggest possible return on their investments. ($1 = 99.1100 Japanese yen)

(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Additional reporting by Chikafumi Hodo; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

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