TOKYO -- The Japanese government plans to sell off its entire 31.7% stake in West Japan Railway /zigman2/quotes/208344126/delayed JP:9021 +2.09% Co., valued at about ¥253.7 billion ($2.37 billion), the railway operator said Friday.
In March, the government will offer 634,344 shares in the company, more commonly known as JR West, through a global offering via joint global coordinators Nikko Citigroup and UBS Ltd. as it moves to fully privatize the firm.
The announcement was made Friday after the closing bell in Tokyo. JR West's shares had ended 1% lower at ¥400,000 amid rumors the sale was imminent.
The move will make JR West the second of the former Japan National Railway companies to be fully privatized. East Japan Railway /zigman2/quotes/201416061/delayed JP:9020 +1.52% Co., the largest of the seven companies spun off from the state-run system in 1987, was fully privatized in 2002. Of the seven, JR East, JR West and Central Japan Railway /zigman2/quotes/205638698/delayed JP:9022 +2.53% Co. have stock-exchange listings.
JR West said 44 brokerage houses will underwrite its shares in the domestic market, while 11 securities firms will place the shares with overseas investors. The offering price will be set between March 5 and March 10. Share subscriptions will take place during three sessions.
Although the Tokyo stock market has been relatively solid so far this year after a robust 24% rally last year, the recent rush of initial public offerings and other equity-financing moves have raised concerns about a glut among some market participants. Just this week, a major IPO for Shinsei Bank Ltd. raised ¥250 billion in a global offering.
Japan's government is hungry for capital. Although it needs to tackle fiscal reform, it can't expect tax revenue to increase significantly anytime soon as the domestic economy remains weak. Generating cash through share sales looks like one of the few options it has to help narrow its deficits.
But the Ministry of Finance recently decided against resuming sales of its shares in Japan Tobacco Inc. before the March 31 end of the fiscal year.
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