U.S. Markets close in 6 hrs 30 mins

Lixil reaches basic agreement to buy Grohe for $4 billion

By Nathan Layne

TOKYO (Reuters) - Lixil Group Corp (TYO:5938) has reached a basic agreement to buy Grohe (GROH.UL), Europe's biggest bathroom installations maker, for about 400 billion yen (2.48 billion pounds), marking Japan Inc's second multibillion dollar acquisition in Europe this month.

Although a weaker yen has put a damper on the pace of Japanese acquisitions abroad this year, many companies remain eager to snap up overseas firms as they confront limited growth opportunities in their saturated home market.

Lixil, itself formed by mergers of several Japanese building products makers and with a lineup ranging from toilets to window frames, announced in June that it would buy U.S. toilet and plumbing fixtures maker American Standard for $542 million.

Lixil Chief Executive Yoshiaki Fujimori told reporters on Thursday that his company had reached agreement on major terms for a purchase of Grohe, although there were still some issues that needed to be ironed out. He said an announcement on the deal was likely later on Thursday.

"We reached an agreement on the major terms. There are small items to be left so in a few hours we will know," Fujimori said.

Grohe's owners, from TPG Capital (TPG.UL) and the private equity arm of Credit Suisse (VTX:CSGN), had also been considering the option of exiting their investment by listing the company on the stock exchange.

The Nikkei business daily, which reported earlier on Thursday that an agreement had been reached, said Lixil had lined up more than 200 billion yen in loans from Japanese banks for a leveraged buyout of Grohe.

It added that Lixil would establish a special-purpose company to handle the transaction, to which Lixil would contribute about 130 billion yen while the Development Bank of Japan would contribute about 50 billion yen.

Early this month, Suntory Beverage & Food Ltd (2587.T), Japan's second-largest drinks maker, said it would buy GlaxoSmithKline Plc's (GSK.L) Lucozade and Ribena brands for 1.35 billion pounds ($2.2 billion) to help it expand into new markets.

Shares of Lixil rose 0.2 percent on Thursday morning in Tokyo, compared with a 0.3 percent decline in the broader market (.TOPX).

(Editing by Edmund Klamann and Chris Gallagher)