• SHARE

OSAKA (Kyodo) Hanshin Electric Railway Co. decided at an extraordinary board meeting Tuesday to go ahead with Hankyu Holdings Inc.’s plan to acquire Hanshin shares held by the Murakami Fund.

The decision now shifts attention to whether Hankyu has the means to acquire the shares, sources from the two companies said.

Hankyu wants to buy the Murakami Fund’s stake for about 800 yen per share, but the fund reportedly is asking for more than 1,000 yen, the sources said.

If the tender offer succeeds, the two Kansai region rivals are expected to integrate under a joint holding company in what would be the first integration of two major private railways in the postwar era.

Hanshin, owner of the popular Hanshin Tigers baseball team, and Hankyu would continue to run their railways separately, but other areas of business would be integrated under the holding company, according to the sources.

One of the main reasons Hankyu wants to go ahead with the acquisition plan, industry watchers said, is Hanshin’s abundant real estate, especially in Osaka’s bustling commercial district of Umeda. Both railways have terminals and department stores there. If the two firms tie up, they would control most of the area’s prime real estate.

The Hankyu board approved a plan Monday to use a public tender offer to purchase a roughly 45 percent stake held by the investment fund led by Yoshiaki Murakami. The fund is Hanshin’s biggest shareholder, with a 45.73 percent stake as of late February.

During Monday’s board meeting, Hankyu executives discussed ways to move ahead on talks with the investment fund and the merits of merging operations with Hanshin, the Hankyu sources said.

After doing the due diligence, the board decided 800 yen per share was a fair price.