Blackstone hires Bain dealmaker in Japan corporate buyout push, say sources: Reuters

Blackstone Group (BX.N) has hired seasoned dealmaker Atsuhiko Sakamoto from Bain Capital to build a corporate buyout team in Japan in a bid to broaden its focus beyond property deals in the country, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Sakamoto, who has been with Bain since 2007 and most recently as a managing director, focused on the tech, media and telecoms sectors, according to Bain’s website.

He was a senior executive at Bain whose Tokyo team worked on the biggest private equity-backed deal globally this year – the $18 billion purchase of Toshiba Corp’s (6502.T) chip unit by a Bain-led consortium.

The move by Sakamoto comes as private equity interest in Japan is growing, with many large companies expected to consider a series of spin-offs amid a government drive to improve corporate governance and boost shareholder returns.

Japan-based private equity firms have raised a total of $4.8 billion so far this year, the highest since 2007 and tripling the amount of last year, according to data provider Preqin.

Blackstone has till now focused on real estate in Japan. Its move to spread its focus comes as it is raising its first Asia-focused private equity fund with a target of at least $3 billion.

In August, Blackstone announced the appointment of Katsuyuki Kuki as chairman and representative director for Japan.

Sakamoto will build Blackstone’s Japan-focused buyout team, the people told Reuters, with one saying further local hires are expected.

Blackstone and Bain declined to comment. Sakamoto did not respond to several requests for comment. The people declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Bain has been among the more active private equity groups in Japan. Besides the Toshiba deal, it won shareholder support last week to complete its tender offer for advertising agency Asatsu-DK Inc (9747.T) in a $1.35 billion deal.

Other western private equity firms are also increasing their dealmaking in Asia’s second-largest economy. KKR (KKR.N) has completed a series of acquisitions, including a $1.3 billion buyout of Hitachi Ltd’s (6501.T) power tool unit in January, and is now looking to buy Hitachi Kokusai Electric Inc (6756.T) in a $2.2 billion deal.

Last month Nomura Holdings Inc (8604.T), Japan’s largest brokerage, announced plans to relaunch a private equity business after dissolving the unit in 2014. The business plans to invest up to 100 billion yen ($883.00 million) in small and medium-sized companies.