Hitachi Construction Said to Be in Talks to Buy Nissan Unit

Hitachi Construction Machinery Co., the world’s largest maker of giant excavators, is in talks with Nissan Motor Co. to buy the automaker’s forklift-truck unit, according to two people familiar with the matter.

An agreement could be reached as early as this month, according to the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. The companies have been in talks for at least three months, they said.

Nissan Forklift Co., a 100-percent owned unit of Japan’s second-largest carmaker, produces 30,000 forklifts a year in Japan, Europe and the U.S., according to its website. The unit had sales of about 80 billion yen ($1 billion) last fiscal year, according to one person, up from 61.3 billion yen a year earlier.

Koutaro Hirano, a Tokyo-based spokesman for Hitachi Construction Machinery, and Chris Keeffe, a Nissan spokesman declined to comment.

Nissan, based in Yokohama, Japan, is scaling back businesses outside its main vehicle division as Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn has set a goal of becoming the world’s largest electric-car seller, projecting demand for such models to grow to 10 percent of global auto sales by 2020.

Forklift-truck producers have been battered by price competition in the domestic market, dominated by Toyota Industries Corp. (6201), an affiliate of Toyota Motor Corp. (7203), one of the people said. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (7011) and Nippon Yusoki Co. formed a venture to combine domestic sales in 2009 to counter the intensifying competition.

Hitachi Construction Machinery, Japan’s second-largest maker of excavators and wheel loaders, made TCM Corp. a forklift unit in 2005 and acquired all shares it didn’t own in December 2009. The unit, whose predecessor built the first Japan-made forklift in 1949, had sales of 72.5 billion yen for the year ended March 31, according to the company’s website.

Japan’s industry forklift production totaled 104,763 units in 2010, up 46 percent from a year earlier, according to data from the Japan Industrial Vehicles Association.

Shares of Hitachi Construction rose 0.3 percent to 1,281 yen as of 2:30 p.m in Tokyo, while Nissan shares dropped 1.3 percent to 677 yen.

To contact the reporters on this story: Masumi Suga in Tokyo at msuga@bloomberg.net; Masatsugu Horie in Osaka at mhorie3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kae Inoue at kinoue@bloomberg.net; Rebecca Keenan at rkeenan5@bloomberg.net;

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