RPT-Panasonic hires Merrill Lynch to sell healthcare unit stake

Tue Apr 16, 2013 3:33am EDT

By Emi Emoto

TOKYO, April 16 (Reuters) - Japan's Panasonic Corp has hired Bank of America Merrill Lynch to sell a part of its healthcare unit in a deal that could raise as much as $1 billion for the sprawling electronics conglomerate, two financial sources familiar with the deal said.

Merrill Lynch will begin providing information on the sale to potential bidders by May, including private equity funds Bain Capital and Carlyle Group, the sources said on condition they were not identified.

Panasonic's president, Kazuhiro Tsuga last month said he would seek a partner "with medical knowledge and skills and capital for future growth" to invest in the healthcare unit as part of a wider company revamp to bolster profitability and shift Panasonic away from consumer electronics to supplying components and devices to other companies.

He did not say how big of a stake in the healthcare unit he planned to sell. Before the announcement analysts had expected Panasonic to announce the outright sale of the business, which makes blood-sugar monitoring devices and medical chart systems.

To maintain its cashflow, Panasonic is selling assets, including last month a Tokyo office tower for around $500 million. Tsuga last month also announced the sale of a majority stake in a logistics subsidiary to Nippon Express Co, Japan's largest transportation company.

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