March 9, 2016 / 6:48 AM / in 2 years

Canon closes in on Toshiba's medical unit after fierce bidding

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 logo of Toshiba Corp is seen at the company's news conference venue in Tokyo in this May 17, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao/Files

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.

PRICEY BUT PROFITABLE

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

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