Goldman reportedly OKs Panasonic bid for Sanyo

Sweetened offer clears the way for a deal estimated to be worth at least $6.5 billion.

TOKYO--Goldman Sachs has agreed to a slightly sweetened Panasonic offer to buy its stake in Sanyo Electric, three financial sources said Thursday, clearing the way for a deal estimated to be worth at least $6.5 billion.

Sanyo shares fell 4 percent to 137 yen on news that a deal had been reached below the company's current share price.

The move by Goldman, which had rejected Panasonic's earlier lower offers, came after the Wall Street firm reported its first quarterly loss since going public and Panasonic and rival consumer electronics makers were hit by a sales slump.

Panasonic will offer 131 yen ($1.47) per Sanyo share via a tender offer sometime early next year, the sources said, 1 yen more than it had earlier offered this month.

Panasonic, the world's top plasma TV maker formerly known as Matsushita Electric, wants Sanyo because of its leading position in rechargeable batteries, which are widely used in mobile phones, PCs, music players and increasingly to power cars.

Panasonic first offered 120 yen per share to Sanyo's three top shareholders, and later raised its offer by 10 yen.

Sanyo's other top two shareholders, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking and Daiwa Securities SMBC, were considering the offer positively, sources have said.

But Goldman earlier this month rejected the sweetened offer of 130 yen.

Officials at both Goldman Sachs and Panasonic declined to comment.

The three shareholders hold nearly 430 million preferred shares, each of which can be exchanged for 10 common shares when a restriction is lifted in March.

If converted they would hold a combined 70 percent stake, worth some 565 billion yen, according to Reuters calculations.

Goldman appears to have taken its chance to sell its stake, despite the price being far below what it had been seeking, due to the increasingly bleak outlook for Japanese consumer electronics makers.

Late last month, Panasonic cut its annual net profit forecast by 90 percent and announced plans to restructure as the global financial crisis dampens sales of TVs and other electronics.

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