Takata to Plan Shortlist of Bidders for Air-Bag Maker

  • Daicel, Key Safety Systems, KKR among interested parties
  • Japanese supplier is working with Lazard on restructuring

Takata Corp., the Japanese air-bag supplier that’s behind the automotive industry’s biggest safety recall, is moving forward with an auction of the company as private-equity firms and carparts makers line up offers.

Suitors include Carlyle Group LP, which is working with Chinese-owned air-bag manufacturer Key Safety Systems Inc.; Daicel Corp., a Japanese manufacturer of air-bag inflators that’s jointly bidding with Bain Capital; and KKR & Co., according to people familiar with the matter.

Bidders for Tokyo-based Takata have been asked to submit their proposals by early this week, and Takata aims to shortlist two to three candidates by October, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is confidential.

The sale will be closely scrutinized by the world’s largest automakers, which are likely to spend the next several years recalling air-bag inflators that can rupture and shoot deadly shards at vehicle occupants. Takata set up a committee in February that’s been negotiating with its car-making customers, led by Honda Motor Co., on the costs related to replacing the defective parts linked to as many as 15 deaths worldwide.

“It may take time from now on given the need to reach agreement with various stakeholders,” said Shintaro Niimura, a credit analyst at Nomura Securities Co. “The Japanese carmakers, foreign carmakers, all have different interests.”

Restructuring Process 

Some of the bidders are considering the possibility of some form of bankruptcy proceedings for Takata to mitigate the liabilities, said the people. A person with knowledge of the restructuring process said in May that Takata would seek to avoid bankruptcy and instead look for buyers that could take a controlling stake and carry the company through its crisis. Takata is working with Lazard Ltd.

Representatives at Takata, Lazard, Carlyle, Bain Capital and KKR declined to comment. Daicel said it couldn’t immediately comment. Calls to Key Safety System outside of regular business hours weren’t answered.

While KKR plans to make a bid on its own, it hasn’t ruled out working with a partner, said one of the people.

To read Bloomberg Businessweek’s cover story on Takata, click here.

Almost 70 million Takata airbag inflators are scheduled for replacement between now and 2019, the largest and most complex auto-safety recall in U.S. history. On Friday, General Motors Co. asked U.S. safety regulators to delay by a year the mandatory recall of almost 1 million vehicles with airbags made by Takata, saying the designated models have not been shown to carry the same risk as others linked to deaths and injuries.

Takata has a market value of $334 million and the stock has plunged 87 percent since January 2014. The company faces billions in potential recall costs should automakers not agree to forgive the debts.

Chinese Bidder

Daicel already supplies replacement air-bag inflators to Takata and has existing relationships with Toyota Motor Corp., Honda and Nissan Motor Co. Key Safety Systems, based in Sterling Heights, Michigan, was acquired this year by China’s Ningbo Joyson Electronic Corp.

Ningbo Joyson may find it hard to win the bid for Takata as Japanese companies have a strong sense of national pride for their manufacturing standards, according to Cui Dongshu, secretary general of the China Passenger Car Association. 

Daicel may have an edge over Ningbo Joyson, according to Yale Zhang, a managing director at researcher Autoforesight Shanghai Co.

“Japanese companies are more willing to accept Japanese bidders,” said Zhang. “Daicel’s inflators will be a good supplement to Takata, given that the airbag scandal partly resulted from Takata’s attempts to turn to cheaper suppliers to save costs.”

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