TOKYO -- Toshiba set a course forward Thursday with a five-year plan to seek growth in fields like digital technologies as it prepares for a long-haul turnaround.
The conglomerate is crawling out from under its financial woes, most notably by selling its memory chip unit.
Toshiba now aims to "generate profit through stable business-to-business dealings," Chairman and CEO Nobuaki Kurumatani told reporters, as the company looks to rid itself of burdens left over from the past and shift its focus to core operations.
The Toshiba Next Plan, which starts from April 2019, features a mix of selling or otherwise winding up high-risk businesses, cutting costs and laying out growth strategies. It targets an operating profit margin of 6% or greater on revenue of 3.7 trillion yen ($32.5 billion) in fiscal 2021, up from the forecast for the present year of a less-than-2% margin on 3.6 trillion yen in revenue. By fiscal 2023, the goal is a 10% margin and revenue of 4 trillion yen.
The Tokyo-based company will pour just over 1.7 trillion yen into equipment investment and research and development. Artificial intelligence and the "internet of things," the collective term for connected devices, are among the fields targeted for growth.
Toshiba recognizes that it is off to a late start in these areas. Its internet of things operations "do have technology and a customer base that can produce data, but the business model remains to be sorted out," said Taro Shimada, a former executive at Siemens' Japanese arm who took the helm of Toshiba's digital business on Oct. 1.
The company sees infrastructure bringing in around 40% of its fiscal 2023 operating profit goal of 400 billion yen. It aims to add value with new services like maintenance and repairs in fields where it has high market shares, such as elevators and power generation equipment.
"We've invested heavily in semiconductor memory while not allotting as much to other fields," Kurumatani said. But with the memory unit gone, Toshiba's plan calls for building new facilities in and outside Japan for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, part of the infrastructure segment, and expanding sales of the batteries for trains and autos. It will also take on tasks like shoring up its renewable-energy business, as well as repairing production facilities for air conditioners.
As for shedding risk, Toshiba said Thursday it would sell its U.S. liquefied natural gas business, said to be facing a potential loss of as much as 1 trillion yen, to Chinese gas producer ENN Ecological Holdings. It has also decided to liquidate its British nuclear unit, having begun withdrawing from overseas nuclear operations in general after being plunged into crisis by massive losses at U.S. unit Westinghouse Electric, which it has since sold off.
Toshiba's latest full-year net profit forecast is pegged at 920 billion yen -- 150 billion yen lower than in August, but still up 14% year on year thanks to nearly 1 trillion yen from the sale of Toshiba Memory.
Cost-cutting efforts are seen delivering the bulk of the improvements targeted for the three years to fiscal 2021, by which time Toshiba aims to lift annual operating profit by 180 billion yen. Of that sum, 120 billion yen would come from savings due to revised procurement processes, as well as restructuring steps like job cuts. The company plans to shed around 5% of its workforce, or 7,000 people, including over 1,000 through early retirement, in addition to employees leaving at retirement age.
Toshiba's shares closed up more than 12% on Thursday after the five-year plan was unveiled and the company said it would pay its first dividend in four years.
"Targets like the 10% operating profit margin exceeded investors' expectations," said Hisashi Moriyama at JPMorgan Securities Japan. "The fact that Toshiba took the plunge on selling the U.S. LNG operations and liquidating the British nuclear unit was significant."