Thu, Apr 13, 2017 - Page 12 News List

Toshiba to forgo Hon Hai bid: sources


Toshiba Corp might forgo the highest bid for its semiconductor business, from Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密), because of likely opposition from the Japanese and US governments, according to people familiar with the matter.

Hon Hai, which has indicated its willingness to pay as much as ¥3 trillion (US$27.37 billion) for the chip unit, would face resistance because of its ties to China, said the people, asking not to be identified because the matter is private.

That could drag out regulatory approvals and delay badly needed cash payments to Toshiba, raising the risks of such a deal, the people said.

Hon Hai, the primary iPhone assembler for Apple Inc, has most of its factories in China.

As a result, Toshiba is giving serious consideration to lower bids, including a potential offer of about ¥2 trillion from US chipmaker Broadcom Ltd, the people said.

The Japanese government is organizing an alternative offer from Japanese companies that aims to inject ¥500 billion into the chips unit in exchange for a minority stake, one person said.

Current bids are non-binding and could change.

The deadline for the next round of bidding is the middle of next month, one of the people said.

On Tuesday, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko, said the nation would protect its interests in any sale.

“We are keeping a close eye on the process,” Suga said. “As a general principle, there would be a requirement to examine any deal under the foreign-exchange law.”

Toshiba spokeswoman Kaori Hiraki declined to comment.

Hon Hai representatives did not respond to an e-mailed request for comment and telephone calls to its media department were not answered.

Toshiba’s board has signaled its preference for keeping the business within Japan.

“If you ask whether we really should let go of a technology that’s important by an order of magnitude, the answer is no,” Toshiba outside director Yoshimitsu Kobayashi said late last month, adding that if the business was sold to a foreign company, a US buyer would make most sense.

The stance sets up a clash with Hon Hai chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘). The billionaire is fresh off winning a similar battle against Japanese officials for control of Sharp Corp, which makes panels for the iPhone and other devices.

In that auction, Gou employed a parallel strategy of offering much more than any other bidders and pressuring a resistant management into talks.

He then solicited directors, shareholders and government officials to win approval for the acquisiton — only to lower his bid later before closing the deal.

The acquisition has been a success for Hon Hai. Sharp shares have surged four-fold from their low in August last year. That helped push the stock of Hon Hai, which with affiliates owns more than half of Sharp, to a decade high this month.

Toshiba is well aware of Gou’s history and is reluctant to be drawn into such a volatile, unpredictable negotiation.

That has led the Tokyo-based company to give closer attention to rival offers, such as Broadcom’s, even though it is only two thirds of the Hon Hai bid.

South Korea’s SK Hynix Inc has also submitted a bid and is in talks with Japanese investors about participating, in part to overcome political hurdles, a person familiar with the matter said this week.

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