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Toshiba President Satoshi Tsunakawa, right, and other executives hold a news conference in Tokyo on March 14.
Toshiba in turmoil

Toshiba won't sell chip unit to 'politically problematic' countries

President also sees greater-than-zero chance of offloading Westinghouse

KENTARO IWAMOTO, Nikkei staff writer | Japan

TOKYO -- Toshiba President Satoshi Tsunakawa on Tuesday said the conglomerate will not sell its prized memory chip unit to companies in countries that have friction with Japan.

Selling the chip business is a key step in the company's restructuring plan. Tsunakawa said Toshiba will select a "proper partner" while "avoiding countries that would pose political problems."

"Semiconductor technology is related to a country's security, so we will take this into consideration when choosing partners," he said.

Around five groups, mainly from the U.S. and countries elsewhere in Asia, are reportedly bidding for the chip unit. Tsunakawa declined to say whether there are any Japanese bidders.

He stressed the company aims to finalize a deal in early fiscal 2017, which starts in April.

The same day, Toshiba announced a three-year plan through fiscal 2019. The recovery strategy includes the deconsolidation of the chip unit and U.S. subsidiary Westinghouse Electric.

Asked if there are any potential buyers for the loss-laden Westinghouse, Tsunakawa said that since some of the unit's businesses are stable, the possibility of a sale "is not zero." As for speculation about a Chapter 11 filing by Westinghouse, he insisted that "nothing has been decided at this moment."

"First step"

According to Toshiba's plan, the company is bracing for revenue to narrow 30% for fiscal 2017, to 3.85 trillion yen ($33.5 billion) from the current year's projection of 5.52 trillion yen. Once the two units have been unloaded, Toshiba's balance sheet will likely have total assets of some 4 trillion yen, with a shareholders' equity ratio of about 20%, the company said.

The group intends to focus on infrastructure, including railway systems and elevators, and energy -- excluding overseas nuclear power plants. Toshiba said its capital expenditure will come to an average of 130 billion yen a year.

Toshiba also plans to spend 40 billion yen on restructuring during fiscal 2017. Tsunakawa said the details of the outlays have yet to be firmed up.

All told, the three-year plan calls for generating 4.2 trillion yen in revenue and a 210 billion yen operating profit for fiscal 2019, without Westinghouse and the chip business.

Tsunakawa said the plan represents "the first step for us to break with past management, which pursued excessive growth." Regarding the risk of a stock delisting, he said the company would "continue efforts to avoid" that outcome.

Toshiba also said on Tuesday that financial authorities approved its request to again postpone its earnings report for the April-December period. It now has until April 11 to provide the numbers.

The earnings announcement, initially slated for Feb. 14, was already delayed for a month to give auditors time to investigate reports of faulty internal controls at Westinghouse. Toshiba said it needs to continue looking into whether senior managers exerted "inappropriate pressures" in relation to Westinghouse's acquisition of a U.S. nuclear services company, which resulted in huge losses for Toshiba.

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