Takata seeks backer to help pay for air bag recalls - sources

TOKYO, April 12 (Reuters) - Embattled air bag maker Takata Corp has begun looking for a financial backer amid a global recall of its potentially lethal air bags, and plans to draw up a list of candidates by August, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

A third-party panel of financial and legal advisers formed by Takata earlier this year is approaching companies, including those in the automotive industry, seeking financial aid, the people said.

It’s not clear how much funding Takata is looking for, or how any aid would be structured.

Takata, whose faulty air bag inflators have been blamed for 11 deaths and more than 100 injuries, triggering a recall of more than 50 million air bags worldwide, declined to comment on the plan.

The Japanese firm could face a bill topping $3.5 billion if it is found to be responsible for defective air bag inflators recalled so far, industry experts estimate - far more than its end-2015 assets of about $1.3 billion.

The auto industry is waiting for the results of several investigations, including one commissioned by Takata itself into the root cause of air bags that can explode with excessive force and shoot shrapnel inside the vehicle. That could determine how the recall costs will be covered.

So far, most of those costs have been borne by automakers including Honda Motor, Toyota Motor, and Ford whose cars are fitted with Takata air bags.

Honda and Toyota have said they will stop using Takata air bag inflators in new vehicle models, and are sourcing replacement inflators from alternative suppliers.

A spokesman for Honda, which has had the most cars affected by the recall, said it had no plans to provide financial support to Takata. A Toyota spokesman said it had not made any decisions about providing financial support to the supplier.

Takata last month informed its automaker customers of its plans to bring in a ‘sponsor’ to bolster its finances, and said it hoped to reach an agreement over a restructuring plan by mid-September, the people said, asking not to be identified as the plans are still confidential.

Takata is also considering overhauling its management structure and selling overseas subsidiaries as part of a restructuring, other sources have said.

Reuters has previously reported that Takata CEO Shigehisa Takada, grandson of the company’s founder, was willing to resign to take responsibility for the recall. (Reporting by Maki Shiraki, Naomi Tajitsu and Taro Fuse; Writing by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)