Toshiba rides memory chip unit to 28-year high in operating profit


Toshiba Corp. said Thursday that operating profit in the first half of the fiscal year hit a 28-year high, driven by a strong performance from the memory chip business it is trying to sell to eliminate its negative net worth.

Toshiba said operating profit at the end of the April-September period had surged to ¥231.8 billion from ¥93.2 billion last year, the highest since 1989.

This is largely due to strong growth in the chip industry, which saw sales surge 39 percent from the same period last year.

Despite the boost, Toshiba recorded a ¥49.8 billion net loss in the half due to taxes related to the spinning off of the jointly run chip unit, Toshiba Memory Corp., in April.

Toshiba also said its negative shareholders’ equity stood at ¥619.8 billion as of September, a ¥66.9 billion increase in debt since the end of March.

Toshiba is working to erase its negative net worth by selling the flash memory subsidiary to a consortium led by U.S. investment fund Bain Capital, which groups U.S. technology firms including Apple Inc. and Dell Inc., as well as South Korean chipmaker SK Hynix Inc. and Japanese semiconductor components maker Hoya Corp.

If the chip unit sale goes through, Toshiba estimates shareholders’ equity will climb to ¥330 billion and that it will return to the black by the end of March. Failure to close the deal would see its negative net worth grow to ¥750 billion from ¥619.8 billion.

Selling the lucrative unit before the end of March is seen as a crucial step for the once-renowned appliance maker to bounce back and avoid delisting from the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Under the bourse’s rules, companies are delisted if have a negative net worth for two consecutive business years.

“As a company, we believe selling off (the unit) is certainly possible,” Toshiba’s Chief Financial Officer Masayoshi Hirata told a news conference on Thursday.

Speaking the Toshiba headquarters in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, Hirata said he is confident the company can remain profitable even after the sale, thanks in part to demand in such sectors as social infrastructure.

Toshiba agreed with the Bain consortium in September to sell Toshiba Memory — the world’s second-largest maker of NAND flash memory chips used widely in smartphones and other computer devices — for ¥2 trillion. But the deal has met strong opposition from partner Western Digital Corp., which is suing Toshiba to block the sale. Toshiba aims to settle with the U.S. computer data storage maker to push the Bain deal through.

Another question centers on whether Toshiba can clear lengthy antitrust hurdles overseas, particularly in China, before the end-of-March deadline.

Meanwhile, the TSE removed Toshiba from its watch list for delisting in October after observing its efforts to improve corporate governance.

Also on Thursday, Hirata said the company has not ruled out the possibility of ending its 48-year sponsorship of “Sazae-san,” a popular weekly cartoon series, saying it is considering various approaches to reform its corporate structure.

“Sazae-san” has been acknowledged by Guinness World Records to be the longest-running animated series in the world.

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