October 10, 2019 / 9:19 AM / 10 days ago

Japan's Unizo rejects bids from local fund, Blackstone

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese hotel chain Unizo Holdings (3258.T) said on Thursday it had rejected buyout proposals from a “locally renowned” fund as well as U.S. private equity firm Blackstone Group (BX.N), adding to a list of spurned suitors.

The rejections follow Unizo’s withdrawal of its support for a once white-knight bid from SoftBank (9984.T)-backed Fortress Investment Group as well as a failed hostile bid from travel agent H.I.S. Co (9603.T).

Previously a relatively obscure hotelier, Unizo is now being seen as a prominent battleground amid Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for greater transparency and reform because of its ways of handling buyout offers from various suitors.

Unizo has frustrated investors by giving the impression that it had wooed, and then rejected, the bid from Fortress which it once welcomed but later back-tracked.

On Wednesday, Unizo’s top shareholder, Elliot Management, ended weeks of public silence to ask Unizo’s board to address its concerns about disclosure.

The latest failed suitor was a well-known fund in Japan, which Unizo did not name. The fund offered to buy the company at between 4,500 yen and 5,000 yen a share. That compared with its closing price of 4,540 yen on Thursday.

Unizo said it had rejected the offer because the fund was not able to prepare the money needed for the proposed buyout. Also the fund asked Unizo to secure 90 billion yen in a bank account as part of the deal financing.

Unizo also identified Blackstone as the suitor it rejected in September, when it disclosed a bid from a “top global fund”. Blackstone resubmitted its bid this week but was rejected again, Unizo said.

Reporting by Junko Fujita; Editing by Deepa Babington and David Evans

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