KKR has no plans to lead Toshiba bid, but could join a deal

KKR & Co (KKR.N) does not plan to lead a bid for Japanese conglomerate Toshiba Corp (6502.T) at this point, three people with knowledge of the situation said, as the race for what could be the country’s biggest buyout deal this year gathers pace.

KKR could, however, still take part in a deal as an equity partner, said two of the sources. A spokesperson for KKR declined to comment.

The global buyout firm held informal discussions about a potential deal with Toshiba’s special committee, some of the conglomerate’s shareholders and other investors, but stopped short at submitting a bid due to the complexity of the transaction, said one of the people.

KKR is awaiting more clarity from the government and Toshiba’s management on whether a deal could realistically materialise, said the person.

A buyout of Toshiba could value the firm at as much as $22 billion, sources have previously said, adding that KKR was among the firms that had expressed initial interest.

KKR is seen as one of a few global private equity funds able to lead a buyout deal of that size. It has a $15 billion pan-Asia fund and has cut deals with other Japanese conglomerates including Hitachi Ltd (6501.T) and Panasonic Holdings Corp (6752.T).

Toshiba said on Tuesday it had selected multiple bidders to proceed to due diligence, without naming them. It said last month it had received eight initial buyout proposals as well as two offers for capital alliances that would see it remain listed.

The selected proposals include those that would involve taking Toshiba private and those for a capital alliance, it said.

Japan’s government has not made clear its stance on a potential take-private deal for Toshiba.

The conglomerate has a number of sensitive technologies such as nuclear power and defence equipment, and separate sources have previously said the government would not want to leave those businesses in the hands of foreign owners.

Apollo Global Management (APO.N), Bain Capital, Blackstone Inc (BX.N), Baring Private Equity Asia, CVC Capital Partners and MBK Partners have all expressed initial interest in Toshiba.

Two sources said Bain was among the shortlisted bidders, while the Nikkei business daily reported that CVC Capital, Brookfield Asset Management and Japan Industrial Partners were also selected.

Of these, Bain is likely to emerge as the frontrunner due to its pre-existing relationship with the Japanese conglomerate, separate sources said. Bain declined to comment.

Bain holds majority control of Kioxia Holdings Corp, the flash memory chipmaker previously known as Toshiba Memory. Toshiba continues to have a stake of roughly 40% in Kioxia.

State-backed fund Japan Investment Corp (JIC) is forming a consortium with Japan Industrial Partners to bid for Toshiba, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter. JIC and Japan Industrial Partners declined to comment.

But industry minister Koichi Hagiuda cautioned last month that JIC would not be able to invest in any deal just to take a company private and ensure stable management. Any JIC investment would have to fulfil policy objectives, he said.