TOKYO (AP) – Panasonic Corp. said Thursday it has started its bid to take over smaller rival Sanyo Electric Co. for an estimated 402 billion yen ($4.4 billion), moving closer to create one of the world's biggest electronics makers.

Panasonic, the world's biggest plasma TV maker, is expected to purchase more than 50 percent of Sanyo shares, hoping to take advantage of the smaller rival's green businesses in solar panels and rechargeable batteries.

Panasonic spokesman Akira Kadota said the tender offer is planned for Nov. 5 through Dec. 7 at the price of 131 yen ($1.40) per share.

Sanyo's three major shareholders – Goldman Sachs, Daiwa Securities SMBC and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. – have agreed to sell at least a combined 3.07 billion shares to Panasonic at that per-share price, which guarantees the Osaka-based company to take majority stake in Sanyo. The three shareholders together control about 70 percent of Sanyo's total outstanding shares.

Panasonic had reportedly hoped to take a larger stake in Sanyo, but the company is largely expected to have to settle with the minimum controlling stake, as other shareholders are unlikely to want to sell theirs, with the tender offer price now nearly half of the market level. Sanyo shares closed Wednesday at 216 yen ($2.30).

Kadota said that Sanyo is expected to become Panasonic's subsidiary by mid-December, a year after the two companies announced the buyout deal.

The tender offer had been delayed by several months as Panasonic had to wait for clearance from anti-monopoly authorities in the U.S., China and the European Union to go ahead with the takeover.

Panasonic barely managed to creep back into the black with July-September quarterly net income of 6.1 billion yen ($67 million), its first profit in a year. That was down 90 percent from the previous year, despite recovering demand for refrigerators and washing machines.

Still, it projected a loss for the year, though narrower than initially forecast at 140 billion yen ($1.5 billion) compared with 195 billion yen.

Sanyo, founded by a brother-in-law of Panasonic founder Konosuke Matsushita, is a popular brand but in recent years has been seen as a relative loser in Japan's competitive electronics sector.

The company was forced to reshuffle top management after a 2007 accounting scandal about falsifying past earnings and reporting a profit when it was in the red. It also suffered from a 2004 earthquake that crippled its chip-making plant.

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