TOKYO (Reuters) - In its biggest acquisition in a decade, Panasonic Corp on Friday said it will buy U.S. supply-chain software company Blue Yonder in a deal worth $7.1 billion, to tap growing demand from companies as the COVID pandemic tests their resilience to disruption.
Panasonic, which bought a 20% stake in Blue Yonder for 86 billion yen ($797 million) last year, will acquire the rest of the stock from shareholders including Blackstone Group Inc and New Mountain Capital, in an agreement, including debt, that values Blue Yonder at $8.5 billion, the company said in a press release.
"The need for more intelligent, autonomous and edge-aware supply chains has been dramatically heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic," Panasonic said.
Panasonic will use cash for half of the acquisition cost with the remaining covered by a bridge loan that will be refinanced with subordinated bonds and other hybrid finance, it said.
Better known for consumer electronics and appliances, Panasonic has in recent years focused more on building parts and supplying services to other businesses, such as batteries for Tesla Inc's electric cars.
The Japanese company deepened its partnership with Blue Yonder in May, gaining a seat on its board after acquiring a minority stake. The U.S. company uses machine learning to help companies manage supply chains that connect factories to warehouses and retailers.
Blue Yonder counts companies such as Walmart Inc Starbucks Corp and Unilever PLC among its customers.
The Blue Yonder deal will be Panasonic's largest acquisition since it spent 800 billion yen to make Sanyo Electric and Panasonic Electric Works wholly owned subsidiaries in 2011.
($1 = 107.9100 yen)
(Reporting by Tim Kelly; editing by David Evans and Elaine Hardcastle)