TOKYO (Reuters) - Toshiba Corp (6502.T) has granted Canon Inc (7751.T) exclusive negotiating rights for its medical equipment unit after a hotly contested auction, with a report putting Canon's offer at more than $6 billion.
The conglomerate put Toshiba Medical Systems Corp on the block to help fund restructuring after a $1.3 billion accounting scandal, attracting a bevy of suitors, particularly Japanese imaging companies seeking to expand beyond cameras to more lucrative products and services.
The second round of bidding, which saw offers go much higher than first estimated, included Fujifilm Holdings Corp (4901.T), and Konica Minolta Inc (4902.T) which teamed up with European buyout firm Permira, sources familiar with the matter said earlier.
The Nikkei business daily said Canon had won prime position to take the unit, not only because its bid topped 700 billion yen ($6.2 billion), but also because there was little overlap between the two firm's medical equipment businesses, raising few anti-trust concerns.
Canon and Toshiba declined to comment on the size of the offer.
"I think the bid is clearly positive for Toshiba if the number is right," said Damian Thong, a Macquarie Group analyst who previously assumed the unit to be worth no more than 400 billion yen.
"It would be a good way to shore up its equity capital base which would be otherwise be a concern for lenders and investors," he said.
Toshiba last year admitted to overstating profits from 2009, and is asking lenders for additional loans of about 200 billion yen ($1.8 billion), sources have told Reuters.
Toshiba Medical is a particularly attractive target due to its position as the world's second-largest manufacturer of CT scan machines. The company, which also makes X-ray and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems, had revenue of 405.6 billion yen in the past financial year.
Canon, which makes X-ray machines and eye examination devices, has been trying for years to expand in high-margin medical devices particularly as demand for cameras has declined with the advent of smartphones.
But it has not made as much headway as hoped for in an industry dominated by the likes of Siemens (SIEGn.DE).
"It might be a little pricey, but will generate profits in the first year," said IwaiCosmo Securities senior analyst Kazuyoshi Saito.
"It is more reasonable than Hon Hai paying about the same for Sharp," he added, referring to the estimated $5.8 billion offer the Taiwanese company has made for the struggling Japanese electronics maker.
The deal comes a year after Canon announced a $2.8 billion takeover of Swedish network video surveillance leader Axis.
($1 = 112.52 yen)
Reporting by Junko Fujita and Makiko Yamazaki; Additional reporting by Ayai Tomisawa, William Mallard and Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Edwina Gibbs