Amazon, Google eye Toshiba chip unit

TOKYO • Google and Amazon joined a list of potential buyers eyeing Toshiba's lucrative memory chip business as the Japanese conglomerate seeks bidders to cover huge losses, a newspaper reported yesterday.

Toshiba has reportedly completed the first round of bidding for its prized memory chip business, seen as key for the cash-strapped company to turn itself around.

Some 10 foreign companies and funds, including Google and Amazon, tendered bids, the Yomiuri Shimbun said, quoting unnamed sources.

The two United States tech giants are expected to use Toshiba's memory chips for their cloud services, the daily said.

Taiwan's Hon Hai, which acquired Japanese electronics- maker Sharp last year, has apparently bid more than two trillion yen (S$25 billion), the daily said.

Immediate confirmation of the report was not available.

Toshiba shares jumped more than 5 per cent last Friday after local media reported that bidders included Apple, US private-equity firm Silver Lake Partners and American chipmaker Broadcom.

Toshiba is expected to negotiate with individual candidates this month.

Local media said any foreign buyer would need to pass a Japanese government review, given concerns about security around systems already using Toshiba's memory chips.

Toshiba is the world's No. 2 supplier of memory chips for smartphones and computers, behind South Korea's Samsung, and the business accounted for about a quarter of its 5.67 trillion yen in revenue the last fiscal year.

The news report came after angry investors lambasted Toshiba executives at a shareholders meeting over its warning that annual losses could balloon to more than US$9 billion (S$12.6 billion).

The red ink is largely tied to huge cost overruns and construction delays at its US nuclear power unit Westinghouse Electric, which filed for bankruptcy protection late last month.

Toshiba, which bought Westinghouse in 2006 for US$5.4 billion, now faces months of complex negotiations over the fate of its US nuclear business, a discussion that could embroil the US and Japanese governments.

The American government has guaranteed loans of US$8.3 billion to help finance some of the construction of four reactors in the US.

Putting US taxpayers on the hook for any losses related to Westinghouse's failure would be an embarrassment for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, particularly if the debacle sparks criticism from American President Donald Trump of Japanese corporations in the US.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 02, 2017, with the headline 'Amazon, Google eye Toshiba chip unit'. Print Edition | Subscribe