By Ritsuko Ando and Saeed Azhar
TOKYO/SINGAPORE, Feb 17 (Reuters) – Japanese freight carrier Kintetsu World Express Inc is buying Singapore’s APL Logistics for $1.2 billion, paying a higher than anticipated price for an overseas deal at a time of slow domestic growth.
Tokyo-headquartered Kintetsu Express said on Tuesday that it agreed to pay 144 billion yen ($1.21 billion) to buy all of APL’s shares from its parent, Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) . Its own capital and bank loans will be used to fund the deal, it said.
At the close of Tokyo trading, Kintetsu Express was worth $1.5 billion by market value. As of end-December, it had current assets of 119 billion yen, including 50 billion in cash and deposits.
Kintetsu Express joins Japanese companies ranging from beverage maker Suntory Holdings Ltd to telecom firm SoftBank Corp in announcing major deals around the world since the start of 2014 to counteract sluggish trading in Japan, often paying hefty premiums.
In the latest high-profile example, camera and office equipment maker Canon Inc made an offer last week worth $2.83 billion for Swedish network video surveillance firm Axis AB, proposing to pay a premium of nearly 50 percent to Axis’s previous closing share price.
The expected APL Logistics deal value is far higher than the $750 million to $900 million range that sources said Singapore-based NOL had been looking for. Such a range would have valued the unit at 10 and 12 times its earnings before interest, taxes depreciation and amortisation for 2013.
The price tag may confound sceptics who had suggested offers for APL Logistics could be closer to $600 million, due to weak global freight rates.
It was not immediately clear whether there was competitive bidding. CJ Korea Express Corp, South Korea’s largest logistics firm, had also been interested in a deal, according to a regulatory filing in October.
Kintetsu Express said it was attracted by APL Logistics’ international reach, and expertise in offering logistics services for the automobile and retail industries.
“By welcoming APL Logistics to our group, we expect to bolster our international air freight services in terms of both geography and products that we handle,” it said in a statement.
NOL’s Group President and CEO Ng Yat Chung said the deal would help the company focus on improving its liner shipping business and improve its balance sheet.
Trading in NOL shares was suspended, while Kintetsu Express shares closed 4.6 percent lower after a Nikkei report on the deal.
NOL said Citi and HSBC were its financial advisers while Nomura Securities advised Kintetsu Express. ($1 = 118.8100 yen) (Editing by Stephen Coates, Kenneth Maxwell and Muralikumar Anantharaman)
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