UPDATE 1-Japan's Seibu and Cerberus meet, but no firm agreements

Fri Jul 5, 2013 5:42am EDT

TOKYO, July 5 (Reuters) - Seibu Holdings Inc and top shareholder Cerberus Capital Management LP said they met on Friday as the two sought to end a highly public dispute over the Japanese railway and hotel group's planned stock listing.

A Seibu spokesman said the two sides met along with two other large Seibu shareholders and that all four parties explained their views on the situation. He said the meeting marked progress, but that no concrete agreements were reached.

"This was a kickoff meeting and we view it as one step forward," the spokesman said.

A Cerberus spokesman confirmed that no decisions were made and said Seibu did not meet its request for more detailed answers to questions the U.S. fund had sent to Seibu management ahead of the company's annual shareholders' meeting (AGM) last month.

Friday's meeting was the first sign of any thaw in the relationship since Cerberus blasted Seibu management at the AGM for what it views as major shortcomings in terms of profitability and governance.

At Friday's meeting Seibu was represented by Director Kaoru Takahashi and Cerberus by Yoshiteru Suzuki, the senior managing director of its Japan operations. Two other Seibu shareholders, Development Bank of Japan and Norinchukin Bank , also sent executives to the meeting.

Seibu and Cerberus have been at odds for months over the terms of a planned relisting of the Japanese company's shares on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, a move that would allow the U.S. fund to cash out on some of its $1 billion investment.

At the AGM Seibu shareholders voted down Cerberus's bid to secure 9 of 15 board seats, the fund's latest setback in an effort to secure leverage over a company in which it now owns 35.48 percent.

Cerberus, Seibu's largest single investor, has been pressing the embattled Japanese property and railways firm to improve governance and earnings performance to ensure it gets a fair value for its shares.

Seibu wants to push through the relisting as soon as possible.

The standoff between Cerberus and Seibu has been seen by some investors as a test of Japan's receptivity to foreign capital as popular Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promises to deregulate the economy to stoke growth.

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