Panasonic's bid to sell healthcare unit stake draws huge interest

A slew of potential bidders will likely compete for the right to invest in Panasonic's healthcare unit, boosting the Japanese consumer electronics giant's chances of raising as much as $1 billion to grow its med tech offerings.

Reuters reports that the Japanese consumer electronics giant will likely consider bids from 10 investment funds, a number of manufacturers and even archrival Toshiba. While Panasonic isn't commenting, sources told the news service that a final roster of first-round bids should be in place by the U.S. Memorial Day holiday.

The lucky winners will have a stake in a division that makes ultrasound imaging, blood glucose monitoring and pain-relief laser devices; hearing aids and electronic medical record-keeping technology. Naturally, potential bidders see growth potential in different areas. Likely investment-fund bidders, for example, see Panasonic's blood sugar monitoring devices as growth drivers in emerging markets including China and India, the Reuters story notes. Likely investment bidders include KKR, Bain Capital, Carlyle Group and TPG Capital management, sources told Reuters.

But Toshiba sees the opportunity to grow its medical equipment business by buying a stake of Panasonic's, according to the article.

Either way, the process is a gradual one that reflects patience on Panasonic's part. In June, Reuters explains, Panasonic will narrow the bidders down to just two or three. Come July, the company will commence a second round of bidding from those finalists.

By August, the article notes, Panasonic should be negotiating one-on-one with a firm it hopes will be the long-desired investor. Originally, Panasonic was rumored to be selling the division outright to raise money in a bid to counter sagging consumer electronics and TV sales.

- here's the Reuters story

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