Report: Permira, KKR circle telemarketer

KKR is reportedly among the firms eyeing a $1.5bn deal for a Citi-owned Japanese telemarketer. If agreed, it would mark KKR's first Japanese LBO since opening in Tokyo.

Three months after making its first investment in South Korea, global buyout firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts is now reportedly looking to do its first Japanese buyout deal.

The firm, along with London-headquartered Permira, has been asked to submit first round bids by 1 September for Bellsystem24, a Japanese telemarketing and customer services firm owned by Citi, Reuters reported. The deal is expected to be worth about $1.5 billion, sources told the newswire.

Permira did not respond to a request for comment by press time. KKR declined to comment.

Japan has been an extremely difficult market to invest in, primarily for foreign buyout firms. KKR opened an office in the country in 2006 but so far has done just one deal: the acquisistion of a minority stake in Orient Corporation, a Japanese consumer credit company, for $167.4 million in May 2007.

Based in Tokyo, Bellsystem24 was acquired by Nikko Principal Investments Japan, one of Citi's private equity arms, in August 2004, before successfully taking the company private in January 2005.

KKR and Permira appear to be the most aggressive bidders for the asset, according to Reuters. The sale of Bellsystem24 is in line with Citi’s attempt to divest assets globally to shore up its capital, the report noted.

Permira, which opened its Tokyo office in July 2005, has made one investment in the country so far. The firm acquired Arysta LifeScience, an agrochemical company, for $2.2 billion in a secondary buyout from private equity firm Olympus Capital Holdings Asia in 2007.

In May, KKR made its first investment in South Korea. The firm acquired Oriental Brewery for a consideration of $1.8 billion, before offloading a 50 percent stake in the company to Hong Kong-headquartered buyout firm Affinity Equity Partners.