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OSAKA (Kyodo) Hankyu Holdings Inc. has made a final decision to launch a public tender offer for Hanshin Electric Railway Co. shares held by the Murakami Fund, sources said Saturday.

Talks between Hankyu Holdings and the investment fund led by financier Yoshiaki Murakami are now in their final phase and a deal may be struck early this week, the sources said.

Hankyu Holdings, which owns Hankyu Corp., a rival railway operator of Hanshin in the Kansai area, wants to buy the Hanshin shares below the current prevailing market price, according to the sources.

But the Murakami Fund, Hanshin’s biggest shareholder with a 45.73 percent stake as of late February, is seeking to sell its holdings at the current market price or higher, they said.

On the Tokyo Stock Exchange, Hanshin ended Friday’s trading at 949 yen, down 42 yen from the previous day.

The Murakami Fund’s average purchase price for the Hanshin stake is estimated at around 680 yen. If the fund were to sell the stake at Friday’s closing price, it would gain more than 50 billion yen in profit.

The sources said Hankyu Holdings and the Murakami Fund are expected to hold talks early this week. If they agree on the purchase price, Hankyu Holdings will convene a board meeting to approve the tender offer, they said.

Hanshin is also expected to support Hankyu Holdings’ bid to purchase the Murakami Fund’s stake, the sources said.

In a related development, former bureaucrat Murakami met with Hanshin executives, including President Kyoji Nishikawa, on Friday, they said.

If the tender offer is successfully concluded, Hankyu Holdings plans to integrate its management with Hanshin by setting up a joint holding company.

The two railway companies as well as the Hanshin Tigers team would be among the entities put under the holding company.