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Forming Japanese consortium for Toshiba chip unit seen as difficult task

JIJI

The idea of forming a consortium of Japanese companies to invest in Toshiba Corp.’s flash memory business will be difficult to realize, Japanese business leader Yoshimitsu Kobayashi said Tuesday.

“The point is how a profitable scenario can be created” in such an investment, Kobayashi, chairman of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives, or Keizai Doyukai, told a news conference.

“I think it would be very difficult” to draw up a scenario that convinces the shareholders of companies that it is a good idea to join such a consortium, said Kobayashi, who as an outside Toshiba director chairs the company’s nominating committee.

The struggling electronics and machinery maker plans to sell a majority stake in the chip unit, Toshiba Memory Corp., in a bid to raise enough funding to overcome its financial crisis.

But within Japanese government and industry circles, there are concerns about possible outflows overseas of Toshiba’s advanced flash memory technology if the unit is acquired by a foreign company.

Against this backdrop, there are hopes that a consortium of Japanese companies, together with government-backed bodies such as Innovation Network Corp. of Japan, would secure a stake in the Toshiba flash memory unit.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that INCJ, under the current system, can support an investment consortium that meets its standards.

Referring to a media report that Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., which bought Sharp Corp. last year, has offered up to ¥3 trillion for the Toshiba unit, Suga said any transfer of semiconductor technology outside Japan would be subject to screening under the country’s foreign exchange law.

“We are supposed to conduct a strict screening (of Toshiba’s sale of the flash memory unit) from the perspective of national security,” the top government spokesman noted.