TOKYO -- Toshiba is considering integrating its personal computer and white goods operations with those of other companies, looking to restructure troubled businesses as it works to put a damaging accounting scandal behind it.
The Japanese manufacturer could consolidate its PC business, one of the areas where fraud was found, with Fujitsu's and with Vaio, the company formed from Sony's spinoff of its PC operations. Toshiba's household appliance business may be merged with Sharp's. Both are "options," with other proposals on the table, President Masashi Muromachi told reporters Monday.
Toshiba is expected to enter talks with Fujitsu and Vaio soon. The most likely proposal would have Toshiba, Fujitsu and Japan Industrial Partners, Vaio's top shareholder, taking stakes in the merged business.
On the other hand, the potential integration of the home appliance business with Sharp is still only a concept brought in from outside, a Toshiba executive said Monday. A deal with Sharp would face many hurdles, another executive noted, saying "I think it'd be tough, since it would just be a coalition of the weak."
By grouping both together as "options," Muromachi likely aimed to show his intent to quickly restructure all of Toshiba's unprofitable businesses, including such areas as televisions. "We'll carry out fundamental structural reform without limitation," he said. "We're in the middle of very wide-ranging discussion of the details." He said he hopes to announce decisions by the end of the year.
Internal efforts to streamline these operations will be necessary before they are merged or sold, Muromachi said. Toshiba will consider cutting fixed costs and selling or shuttering plants in struggling businesses, as well as narrowing down product lineups and overseas sales channels.
In the semiconductor business, where Muromachi got his start, Toshiba was quick to announce reform proposals, including a decision to sell an image sensor factory to Sony. Work has gotten off to a quick start on the three-way merger for the PC business, seen as the most likely candidate for restructuring. Making progress in the white goods operations, such as selling plants, will be essential as well. Whether specifics can be worked out within the year as Muromachi said remains to be seen.