Takata shares soar on report US firm KKR to take control


TOKYO, Japan (AFP) 5/26/2016 -Takata shares skyrocketed in afternoon trade Thursday, following a report that US private equity firm KKR wants to take control of the embattled airbag supplier.

Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) is looking to take over up to 60 percent of the company from the founding family, Japan’s leading business paper the Nikkei reported, prompting Takata’s shares to surge 21.16 percent to 458 yen at the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

The rise is a maximum allowable single day gain under the bourse’s rule.

KKR appears to have proposed its support plan to a Takata-hired legal panel, the Nikkei said, without citing sources.

The scandal-stricken company said earlier this month it logged an annual net loss of $120 million, as it struggles with a massive recall crisis over exploding airbags tied to 13 deaths in the United States and Malaysia.

US auto safety regulators have ordered Takata to recall between 35 million and 40 million airbags installed in US cars, in a push for the replacement of dangerously explosive inflators.

In morning trade Thursday, Takata shares soared nearly five percent after it said Wednesday it hired investment bank Lazard to look for financial sponsors willing to invest in the company.

The panel formed in February is negotiating with automakers on cost claims, Takata said in a statement released during US trade, according to Bloomberg News.

The Tokyo-based auto parts giant has been hit by lawsuits and regulatory probes over claims it hid flaws in its airbags for years. The scandal has affected about a dozen global automaker clients, including Toyota and Volkswagen.

Investigators increasingly suspect that the chemical used to inflate Takata airbags can be unstable, especially in hot and humid conditions, and cause the inflator canister to rupture.

Most of the fatalities have been in the US, including a Texas teenager who died in March after her 2002 Honda Civic collided with another car, activating a defective Takata airbag.

The Takata case constitutes the largest ever safety recall in US history, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said.

Last year the agency slapped Takata with a record $200 million fine for providing inadequate and inaccurate information about the problem airbags to regulators.

With the number of Takaka-related recalls across the world expected to surpass 100 million vehicles, the focus of the issue now is how to divide the massive recall cost between Takata and automakers, the Nikkei said.

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