Cerberus Won’t Sell Aozora Shares in Open Market

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Cerberus Capital Management will not sell any shares of Japanese bank Aozora (8304.T) in the open market, the private equity firm said on Monday in response to what it called “market rumors.”

“Cerberus maintains its positive long-term view of this investment and has no plan to sell any Aozora shares in the open market,” Cerberus said in a statement.

Cerberus views Aozora as an undervalued asset and remains committed to the bank, said Cerberus Managing Director Timothy Price.

The private equity firm also said that it has “substantial liquidity, including billions of dollars of free cash on hand in existing funds and accounts to invest in anything that makes sense for our investors, and also closed a substantial new fund this summer.”

Furthermore, it said, it is under “no pressure to sell any assets at any time for any reason,” and is looking for additional investments.

Cerberus invested in Aozora in 2000 and helped it emerge from temporary nationalization. A unit of the private equity company bought most of Aozora’s common shares in 2003. Now, it owns about 55 percent of Aozora.

Japan’s Shinsei Bank (8303.T) plans to take a 58 percent stake in Aozora, creating the country’s sixth-largest lender, the banks announced in July.

Cerberus made a very public mistake with its investment in Chrysler; others have been more successful.

Cerberus took one of its investments, Talecris Biotherapeutics Holdings Corp (TLCR.O), public last week. The shares closed down 36 cents to $22.30 on Monday, but above their IPO price of $19. (Reporting by Robert MacMillan; editing by Carol Bishopric)