Hitachi starts sale of $5.6 billion chemical unit, first bids due by Aug. 9: sources

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Hitachi Ltd 6501.T has started the formal process for the sale of its $5.6 billion chemical unit with initial bids due in August, people familiar with the matter said, a deal that is expected to draw interest from global private-equity firms.

Hitachi has asked potential bidders to submit first-round bids for Hitachi Chemical Co 4217.T, four people said, declining to be identified as the information is not public.

The initial round will close on Aug. 9, two of them said.

Hitachi has hired Bank of America Merrill Lynch BAC.N while Hitachi Chemical has retained Goldman Sachs Group Inc GS.N to advise on the deal, the two people said.

Reuters reported in May that global private equity firms Bain Capital, Carlyle Group CG.O and KKR & Co KKR.N are among the bidders for the unit, of which Hitachi owns 51.2 percent.

Japanese companies are also expected to submit initial bids along with the three private-equity firms, the two people said.

A Hitachi spokesman declined to comment.

A spokeswoman for Hitachi Chemical said the company has not made any announcement on the issue. Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Merrill Lynch also declined to comment.

The sale would be the largest corporate spin-off in Japan this year. Hitachi and other local firms are under pressure to focus on areas with growth potential and hike shareholder value.

Hitachi is rare among big Japanese corporations for the active reorganization of its businesses. It has sold off semiconductor equipment maker Hitachi Kokusai Electric and power tool unit Hitachi Koki, both to KKR. It also sold car navigation maker Clarion Co to France’s Faurecia SA.

Doing so has reduced its so-called parent and child listings, the Japanese corporate tradition where large listed firms own big stakes of smaller, listed affiliates. Global investors have long called for those stakes to be sold down.

Reporting by Junko Fujita and Taro Fuse; Editing by David Dolan and Himani Sarkar