2017 hasn’t been a great year for Toshiba, as the company has been trying to find a buyer for its semiconductor business in order to cover billions of dollars of losses from its now-bankrupt US nuclear unit and to dig itself out of negative shareholders’ equity. This comes after the company sold its CMOS imaging division to Sony near the end of last year to cover over-stated earnings in an accounting scandal.
A multinational consortium of companies from Japan, the US, and South Korea now looks best poised to purchase Toshiba's semiconductor business.
According to people close to the matter, Toshiba has finally found a buyer. The company has apparently opted for a Japanese government-led group comprising firms from Japan, the US, and South Korea. An exact figure hasn’t been confirmed yet, but the sum clears Toshiba’s 2 trillion yen ($18 billion) minimum asking price for the division.
The group is reported to include the state-backed fund Innovation Network Corp of Japan, the government’s Development Bank of Japan, and Bain Capital, a US private equity firm. The majority of the financing is said to be being provided by South Korea’s SK Hynix, already a major player in the memory market, and the core banking unit of the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. According to sources, Toshiba’s board of direction will vote on the deal on Wednesday and will announce the result through the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
However, Western Digital, a US based data storage company, could throw a spanner in the works. The company has an existing deal with Toshiba for chip technology and has sought a court injunction in the US to prevent Toshiba from selling its chip business without its consent, as it fears that joint venture technology could be sold to one of its competitors, such as SK Hynix. The multi-national consortium has acknowledged this needs to be resolved before any acquisition can be finalized.
A number of other major chip players have also been bidding for Toshiba’s semiconductor business this year. The company already rejected a $27 billion offer from Foxconn amid questions over regulatory approval, as Toshiba needs to complete any deal as quickly as possible. Broadcom had been linked to a $18 billion deal, and Western Digital had also been considered for its own deal earlier in the year.
Toshiba’s semiconductor division has attracted so much interest because the division is the second largest NAND flash memory producer in the world, coming in behind Samsung Electronics. The company’s NAND technology competes with Samsung’s, hence why SK Hynix is particularly interested in the acquisition, as it has so far specialized in RAM but not flash memory.
With Toshiba looking to complete a deal as soon as possible, it might not be long until we find out who wins the bidding war for one of the most sought after flash storage businesses in the world. A Toshiba spokeswoman said the company cannot comment on the sale process.