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UPDATE 3-Japan's Kintetsu to sell hotels to Blackstone as private equity activity grows

* Hotels have $400 mln book value

* Deal worth $550 mln - Nikkei

* Latest private equity deal in Japan (Adds Blackstone comment; paragraph 3)

TOKYO, March 25 (Reuters) - Japan’s Kintetsu Group Holdings will sell eight hotels to U.S. buyout firm Blackstone Group for an undisclosed amount, the railway operator said on Thursday, in the latest private equity deal.

Blackstone is part of a wave of foreign investors hunting for deals in Japan while banking on a rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic as companies shed non-core assets.

Japan “has seen its investment landscape transform over the years as corporations increasingly look to divest their non-core businesses with a trusted partner,” Chris Heady, Blackstone’s regional head of real estate, said in a statement.

In a filing, Kintetsu said it would continue to operate the hotels, which have a book value of 42 billion yen ($385 million) and are part of a portfolio of 24 hotels. The deal was worth 60 billion yen, the Nikkei business daily said.

The sale was spurred by cost cutting during the pandemic, Kintetsu added, with Blackstone selected for its global real estate investing experience.

The Kintetsu deal is the third corporate carve-out for Blackstone, which last year invested a record $7.3 billion in Japan, including the purchase of Takeda’s over-the-counter drugs business.

As private equity activity grows in Japan, shareholders are increasingly challenging company managers in a shakeup of the traditional corporate order. ($1=108.9400 yen) (Reporting by Sam Nussey and Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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