KKR Drops Out of Race to Buy Air-Bag Maker That Caused World's Biggest Car Recall

  • Takata to shortlist suitors by mid-November, people say
  • Three of four bidders said to drop Japan bankruptcy option

KKR & Co. has dropped out of the bidding for Takata Corp. as the troubled air-bag maker seeks to finalize a shortlist of suitors by mid-November, according to people familiar with the matter.

Representatives from the New York-based private equity firm weren’t present when automakers met last week with the bidders for Takata, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations were private. Autoliv Inc., Key Safety Systems Inc., Flex-N-Gate Corp. and Daicel Corp., bidding along with Bain Capital LP, were at the meetings held in New York, the people said. Takata plans to shortlist as many as three bidders for a final round of negotiations, one of the people said.

Autoliv, Key Safety Systems and Flex-N-Gate dropped their proposals for Takata to file for bankruptcy in Japan after automakers expressed concern in a previous round of talks about the potential disruption to suppliers, with only the Daicel-Bain pairing still putting forth the measure, the people said.

Takata began seeking buyers in May after regulators in the U.S. and Japan ordered expansions of recalls that were already the biggest in the auto industry’s history. The devices use a propellant that can be rendered unstable after long-term exposure to heat and humidity, leading their inflators to rupture and spray deadly metal shards at vehicle occupants. At least 17 deaths have been linked to the defect in the U.S., Malaysia and India.

Representatives for KKR, Daicel and Takata declined to comment.

Daicel, which supplies some air bag inflators to Takata, wants its peer to rebound from the recall crisis and will offer support, Masumi Fukuda, a senior managing executive officer, told reporters Wednesday in Osaka. He declined to comment on whether Osaka-based Daicel is bidding for Takata.

Regulators have ordered recalls scheduled into 2019 that could eventually exceed 100 million air bags used by more than a dozen automakers, including Honda Motor Co., Volkswagen AG and General Motors Co. The automakers have a vested interest in who ends up taking over Takata because they’ve already shouldered billions of dollars in repair costs.

Takata shares have plunged 75 percent during the past year, dropping its market value to just 28.5 billion yen ($275 million).

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