Business / Corporate

Japan's H.I.S. pulls bid for control of hotelier Unizo

Reuters

Travel agent H.I.S. Co. said on Saturday it is abandoning its bid for control of Unizo Holdings, buckling in the face of a “white knight” offer from SoftBank’s investment firm for the entirety of the hotel chain.

H.I.S., which already has a 4.79 percent stake in Unizo, last month launched an offer to buy about 40 percent of its shares at ¥3,100 apiece.

H.I.S. said in a statement that no shares were tendered to its offer that ran until Friday.

Unizo had rejected H.I.S.’s offer, saying it was too low and lacked synergy. Instead it backed the bid made by Fortress Investment Group, a SoftBank Group-owned asset manager that offered to buy all the shares for ¥4,000 apiece.

The tug-of-war over Unizo marked a stark departure from the way most acquisitions are handled in Japan, where takeovers tend to be pre-agreed deals waiting to be rubber-stamped.

H.I.S.’s surprise hostile bid has helped Unizo shares more than double since July 9 — the day before the travel agent’s offer was announced — and provided a boost for minority shareholders.

Indeed, Fortress could be pressured by minority shareholders to raise its price, market participants had said.

The corporate activity has seen U.S. hedge fund Elliott Management emerge as a player. Elliott holds a 9.9 percent stake in Unizo, while Japan’s Ichigo Asset Management has built its stake to 6.64 percent, according to public filings.

Elliott is known for buying stakes in companies in the midst of acquisitions and forcing better terms for minority shareholders.

Unizo shares closed up 1.4 percent at ¥4,335 on Friday, while those of H.I.S. rose 3.76 percent to ¥2,623.