Bain, CVC, Permira Short-Listed for Bellsystem24

TOKYO (Reuters) – Permira, CVC Capital and Bain Capital have been shortlisted for the second round of bidding for Bellsystem24, Citigroup’s (C.N) telemarketing company in Japan, sources with direct knowledge of the deal said.

The sale of Bellsystem24 is expected to fetch more than $1 billion, making it the largest acquisition involving foreign private equity firms in Japan in about two years, and marking the latest in a series of asset sales by Citigroup.

Citigroup has been offloading assets globally to bolster its capital and Bellsystem24 is slated as its last big sale in Japan, having already parted with its asset management and brokerage arms earlier this year.

A joint bid by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co [KKR.UL] and trading house Itochu Corp (8001.T) did not put them on the shortlist, four sources said, asking not to be identified because the bidding process is not public.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) and Nikko Citigroup Ltd, who are advising Citigroup on the transaction, started informing bidders of the results of the first bid on Friday, the sources said, after the first round closed on Sept. 1.

Those selected for the second round will be required to submit their next bids by early November.

Permira is expected to bid for Bellsystem24 on its own, while CVC Capital and Bain Capital may team up with other funds or strategic buyers, sources said.

The sale of Bellsystem24 was originally scheduled for last year but was delayed as the credit crisis deepened, making it difficult for would-be buyers to procure funds.

The deal has been estimated at between $1 billion and $1.5 billion, which would be the biggest transaction involving foreign private equity since October 2007 when Permira agreed to buy agrichemical company Arysta LifeScience Corp for $2.2 billion.

Permira has not made any investments in Japan since then.

Bellsystem24, which operates call centres, competes against Moshi Moshi Hotline Inc (4708.T) and Transcosmos Inc (9715.T) in Japan.

By Junko Fujita

(Additional reporting by Wakako Sato and Emi Emoto, editing by Will Waterman)