Toshiba plans to spin off chip business

Article By : Junko Yoshida

News of the plan to sell is already garnering interest both from Western Digital and several investment funds, according to reports.

Toshiba is reportedly mulling a plan to sell a partial stake in its chip business unit, according to Japanese financial daily newspaper Nikkei.

The Japanese conglomerate is facing a fiscal scramble triggered by a likely write-down on its U.S. atomic power operations owing to risks of cost escalation in plant construction.

Toshiba isn't planning to sell its semiconductor business as a whole. Instead, it's offering a roughly 20% interest for ¥200-¥300 billion ($1.77-$2.66 billion) while retaining a majority stake, Nikkei reported. Further the paper said, "Toshiba plans to keep the new company in group earnings. The unit could consider stock-market listing in the future.”

News of the plan to sell is already garnering interest both from Western Digital and several investment funds, according to Nikkei. Toshiba hopes to create the new chip business company as early as the first half of this year.

3D NAND Flash

The crown jewel of Toshiba’s chip business is its 3D NAND Technology. Toshiba and Western Digital jointly operate a flash memory plant in the city of Yokkaichi in Mie prefecture.

The two companies collaborated in developing BiCS3, which they claim is “the world’s first 3D NAND technology with 64 layers,” up from 48 layers in the previous BiCS2 tech. The technology is now in production, with commercial volumes of BiCS3 expected to become available by mid-2017.

The spinoff is expected to provide Toshiba with short-term funds. More important, this will make it easier to get bank loans and other funding for capital investment. It is well known that Toshiba’s memory business, although highly profitable, burns through cash for reinvestment.

Memory chips accounted for the majority of the ¥1.57 trillion ($13.65 billion) in sales of Toshiba's semiconductor operations in fiscal 2015.

When the company announced last November its fiscal 2016 Q2 consolidated business results, Toshiba called its memory business as “a core business,” and reported “memory business achieved an operating profit margin of 12%, exceeding expectations.”

Over the last few years, Toshiba has been busy cleaning up its semiconductor business. In 2015, it withdrew from its CMOS image sensor business and sold to Sony assets related to a 300mm wafer production line at its Oita Operations. Toshiba shifted its focus to analog ICs and motor control drivers for automotive and other segments.

Similarly in 2015, in the discrete semiconductor business, Toshiba decided to discontinue its white LED practice. The company says it’s putting more resources in power semiconductors, optical devices and small-signal devices businesses.

This article first appeared on EE Times U.S.

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