Toshiba Corp. President Satoshi Tsunakawa said Tuesday the ailing electronics giant may sell a majority stake in its flash memory operations to cover losses caused by massive write-downs on its U.S. nuclear business.
During a news conference at the firms’s headquarters in Tokyo, Tsunakawa said the company will, as far as its flash memory business is concerned, take “the best measures possible by thinking flexibly,” adding that he doesn’t rule out compromising all of its stake.
“Anything is possible,” he said.
The bidding process for funding the spinoff started earlier this month. Toshiba had initially planned to unload a less than 20 percent stake in order to maintain influence over the operation. The massive losses in its U.S. nuclear business have forced it to reconsider those plans.
The president’s comments came after Toshiba postponed the announcement of the its financial results for the April-December period by one month, citing ongoing reviews by lawyers and an independent auditing firm.
Instead, the company released a loss estimate, saying it now expects its April-December group net losses to be about ¥500 billion, as it plans to write down some ¥700 billion tied to the U.S. nuclear unit, Westinghouse.
At the news conference, Tsunakawa apologized for the delay in announcing the earnings results.
“I apologize for causing tremendous trouble for everyone,” he said. “I take my responsibility seriously, especially for not being able to announce earnings results on the closing day.”
The company is obligated to publish results within 45 days after the end of the previous accounting period — Tuesday in this case — but can file for an extension with authorities.
“We have submitted a request to extend the deadline” by one month for the earnings report, Toshiba said in a statement. The longer than expected review period is needed to investigate information from a whistleblower linked to its U.S. nuclear business, it said.
Toshiba also announced that Chairman Shigenori Shiga will step down to take responsibility for huge losses linked to Westinghouse. The resignation takes effect Wednesday.
The firm’s shares plunged 9.45 percent to ¥226.2 at one point Tuesday after postponing the release. The shares closed 8.0 percent lower at ¥229.8.
“In a normal, uncontentious situation, the board signs off on something that’s already been prepared weeks ago,” said Damian Thong, an analyst at Macquarie Group Ltd. “In Toshiba’s case, they’re doing it all in a moving airplane, everything is in motion.”
Toshiba has missed financial filing deadlines before. The company pushed back its earnings announcements twice in the wake of an accounting scandal in 2015, delaying the release by about four months. Toshiba’s $5.4 billion acquisition of Westinghouse in 2006 was a bet on the future of nuclear power and a way to balance volatility of its chip-making operations with steady long-term revenue. The vision soured after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis sapped demand for atomic power and the company’s next-generation AP1000 modular reactor technology proved difficult to implement.
Toshiba is now under pressure to come up with a plan for shoring up its balance sheet, which was already under strain from the profit-padding scandal in 2015 that led to restructuring, record losses and asset sales.
Toshiba has put up for sale a significant stake in its flash memory operations and is considering other ways of raising cash.
The heavy net loss will be another blow to the company that reported a group net loss of ¥479.4 billion just a year earlier.
Information from AFP-Jiji, Bloomberg added
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