Report: KKR favored bidder in Panasonic's billion-dollar health unit sale

Private equity giant KKR is the favored bidder for a majority stake in Panasonic's medical device business, Reuters reports, a sale that could be worth as much as $1.5 billion.

Panasonic has narrowed down the list of potential buyers after weeks of negotiations, according to the story, and sources told the news agency that Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. will gain preferential negotiating rights to bid for the company's healthcare unit. KKR would win out against a number of formidable rivals, the article notes, including Toshiba, and a consortium including Bain Capital, the Japanese trading house Mitsui & Co. Ltd. and the Development Bank of Japan.

Some uncertainties remain. Panasonic's healthcare unit makes products such as blood glucose monitors, ultrasound devices and electronic medical record systems. As Reuters notes, the unit's shares are worth about $1.5 billion. But no one is disclosing yet how much of a stake Panasonic will ultimately sell, so the final price could change.

Either way, Panasonic is a struggling consumer electronics giant in serious restructuring mode. It sees more of a future right now outside of healthcare, a sharp contrast from peers such as Sony ($SNE) and Olympus ($OCPNY) that are beefing up their med tech offerings.

If KKR ends up closing the deal, it would end up becoming the U.S. investment outfit's largest Japanese company investment, Reuters points out.

- here's the full Reuters story