Goldman Sachs to exit golf-course operations in Japan

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is selling its 44.7 percent stake in Accordia Golf, Japan's largest golf-course operator.

Goldman, under the subsidiary South Wind Realty Finance Cayman Co., is expected to sell 470,587 shares over the next month on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, Accordia said in a statement Jan. 6. Based on Friday's closing price, the shares were worth $412 million.

Accordia owns 131 golf courses and 16 driving ranges in Japan, a country that has experienced a dip in golfer participation. About 91 million rounds were played in 2009, down 10 percent from its peak in 1992, according to the Japan Golf Course Business Association.

“Goldman must have judged it's time to sell, as it can't expect any upside from the shares, and the move suggests the bank will exit from other real-estate investments in Japan,” Daisuke Seki, of IB Research and Consulting Inc., told Bloomberg. “Golf is a luxury. Playing numbers are falling because of the declining population and weakening economy, as well as companies choosing not to entertain clients on the course.”

Goldman first invested in Accordia in 2002 and took the company public by selling a 55.3 percent stake in an initial public offering in 2006, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Accordia, established in 1981, employs 6,078, most of whom are temporary or seasonal.

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