TOKYO – Toshiba Corp. has chosen a U.S.-Japan consortium as the preferred bidder in the sale of its lucrative memory chip business. The troubled Japanese electronics giant has had deep recent losses and has been selling pieces of its operations to ensure its survival.
Tokyo-based Toshiba said Wednesday the board of directors selected the consortium of Innovation Network Corp. of Japan, Bain Capital Private Equity and the Development Bank of Japan as the preferred bidder in the sale of Toshiba Memory Corp.
The company’s U.S. Westinghouse nuclear operations have racked up massive red ink. Reactors it has been building are still unfinished, partly because of beefed up safety regulations following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. Westinghouse Electric Co. filed for bankruptcy protection in March.
Toshiba’s attempt to gain cash from the chip operations sale has not gone smoothly.
Western Digital of the U.S., which has acquired some SanDisk chip operations, including a joint venture with Toshiba in Japan, reiterated its opposition to such a move. It said in a statement that Toshiba “has no right” to transfer the joint venture without its consent.
It said it filed a request for arbitration last week. Toshiba has accused Western Digital of interfering with its sales efforts. Such sales can be sensitive because they involve the transfer of technology.
Others had also expressed interest, including Hon Hai of Taiwan, also known as Foxconn, a major supplier to Apple, which has acquired Japanese electronics company Sharp Corp.
Toshiba wants to reach an agreement with the consortium and clear legal and other procedures before its June 28 general shareholders’ meeting.
The Innovation Network Corp. of Japan is made up of 26 big-name Japanese corporate investors, including Sony Corp., Canon Inc., Toyota Motor Corp. and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. Bain Capital Private Equity, based in Boston, is one of the world’s leading investment firms. The Development Bank of Japan is backed by the government of Japan.
Toshiba’s earnings reports have failed to get endorsements from its auditors, given the company’s precarious finances over the U.S. projects. The reports are being given as projections, not results — a 950 billion yen ($8.6 billion) loss for the fiscal year ended March.
In 2015, Toshiba acknowledged that it had been systematically falsifying its books since 2008, as managers tried to meet overly ambitious targets. An outside investigation found profits had been inflated and expenses hidden across the board.
Some experts say Toshiba still needs to deal with accountability and governance issues.
“Toshiba appears plagued by a legacy of opaqueness. Without a complete overhaul of its organization, Toshiba will have a very difficult road to recovery of its reputation and trust, essential ingredients to its existence,” said Shuri Fukunaga, chief executive of Burson-Marsteller Japan, a communications consultancy firm that helps companies in crises.
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