Toshiba Faces Big Day of Reckoning

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Toshiba faces a day of reckoning on Friday, when it is expected to offer an initial estimate of the multibillion-dollar charge it must take on its U.S. nuclear business, but this will be only a step in a series of tough choices on the Japanese conglomerate’s survival.

Toshiba’s board meets to approve plans to spin off its semiconductor business as a separate company, hoping to raise more than 200 billion yen ($1.74 billion) by selling as much as a fifth of the core money-making unit, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said.

But as the proceeds would be just a fraction of the hole from cost overruns in its Westinghouse nuclear business – which local media put at 680 billion yen ($6 billion) – the chip sale would only be the start of a solution, which would require help from Toshiba’s banks and possibly the government-backed Development Bank of Japan (DBJ).

Toshiba, which declined to comment on plans for its chip business, says it will unveil the writedown on Feb. 14 when it reports third-quarter results. In the meantime, it has been in regular talks with its banks.

Potential buyers for the stake in the chip business include private equity firms as well as business partner Western Digital, while it has also approached the DBJ for support, sources have said.

Toshiba is rushing to raise funds by the end of the financial year in March as a massive writedown could wipe out shareholder equity that has shrunk to just $3 billion in the wake of a 2015 accounting scandal.

Whether to sell part of the nuclear business at the heart of its problems is a subject for discussion between Toshiba and its lenders, people close to the situation say.

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Toshiba estimates the value of its chip business – the biggest NAND flash memory producer after Samsung Electronics – at 1-1.5 trillion yen ($9-13 billion), said another person with direct knowledge of the matter.

Toshiba CEO Satoshi Tsunakawa recently told the company’s main creditors of its plans, this person said, adding Toshiba is also looking at selling other businesses.

Toshiba’s main banks have agreed to not call in some loans early for now even as recent downgrades of the firm’s credit ratings violate some provisions in debt agreements, people with direct knowledge of the matter have said.

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