With the clock ticking, stricken Toshiba Corp. failed to reach a final decision Thursday regarding a buyer for its flash memory business.

After a board meeting the same day — believed to be the deadline sought by Toshiba’s main creditor banks — the firm, whose debts exceeded assets by ¥552.9 billion at the end of March, was widely expected to announce it would sell chip-making spin-off Toshiba Memory Corp. to a consortium led by U.S.-based data storage maker Western Digital, for about ¥1.9 trillion.

Instead, amid discussions with other potential buyers, the company released a statement saying “the negotiation with each consortium has not reached the point which will allow Toshiba’s Board of Directors could (sic) make a decision”, and that no “decision to reduce the pool of candidate purchasers of TMC” has been made.

Earlier reports said Toshiba received a last-minute proposal from a consortium led by U.S. investment fund Bain Capital, which Toshiba had initially picked as its preferred bidder. The plan reportedly suggested bringing Apple Inc. into the bidding group, with an offer of around ¥2 trillion.

Toshiba said the company is continuing negotiations with three parties. The three groups are Bain Capital’s consortium, which includes the state-backed Innovation Network Corp. of Japan (INCJ), Development Bank of Japan and South Korean chipmaker SK Hynix Co.; a group led by Western Digital that includes U.S. investment fund Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. as well as INCJ and DBJ; and a group involving Taiwanese electronics maker Hon Hai Precision Industry Co.

“Toshiba is looking for a purchaser of TMC that is able to deliver flexible, rapid decision-making and enhanced financial options, and to promote further growth of TMC’s memory business, while also being capable of contributing enough value from the sale of TMC to return the Toshiba group to positive equity,” the company said in the statement.

Toshiba initially announced in June it had selected the Japanese-U.S.-South Korean Bain Capital consortium as the preferred bidder.

But the deal stalled after Western Digital, Toshiba’s joint partner at their chip plant in Mie Prefecture, claimed Toshiba’s sale of the memory business without its consent would breach their joint venture contract. The U.S. data storage maker has since sought an injunction, filing a lawsuit with the International Court of Arbitration in May.

Toshiba Memory has the second-largest share of the global flash memory market after South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. A quick sale and the swift clearing of antitrust reviews — which could take six months or more — are seen as crucial to Toshiba’s survival.

If it fails to eliminate its excess debt and negative net worth by the end of March, Toshiba will be delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange, which would make raising funds for a rebound next to impossible.

Toshiba recorded a net loss of ¥965.6 billion, the biggest by a Japanese manufacturer, in the year ended March after accruing massive losses from U.S.-based nuclear power unit Westinghouse Electric Co., which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March.

Information from Kyodo added

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