Life insurer Dai-ichi Life Holdings has reached agreement with the parent company of Benefit One on its bid to acquire the health care platform, the companies said on Thursday, taking a major step in a high-profile takeover battle.

The agreement with temporary staffing service company Pasona Group, which owns 51.16% of Benefit One, is crucial for Dai-ichi to win the battle against digital health care provider M3, which first launched a tender offer in November after reaching an agreement with Pasona.

Dai-ichi's counter bid in December, unsolicited at the time, surprised investors as life insurers are considered most conservative in Japan's conformist business culture where unsolicited buyout offers are still rare.

Dai-ichi Life said in a filing on Thursday that it would launch a tender offer for Benefit One from Feb. 9 through March 11 to take the company private, paying ¥2,173 ($14.61) per share.

The offer was raised from ¥2,123, which was sweetened from the initial bid of ¥1,800. M3's bid has stayed at ¥1,600.

Pasona said in a statement it had terminated its agreement with M3 and agreed to Dai-ichi's offer instead as it concluded that Dai-ichi's bid had more economic rationality and would better enhance the company's value.

The Benefit One board also recommended its shareholders tender their shares to Dai-ichi.

The fight over Benefit One is the latest in a growing number of takeover deals in Japan, spurred in part by the Tokyo Stock Exchange pushing for improved corporate governance and better allocation of capital that has made large companies reassess the logic of having multiple listed affiliates and subsidiaries.