Battered Toshiba out of easy options to plug nuclear hole

Tue Jan 3, 2017 1:16pm EST
 
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By Makiko Yamazaki and Taro Fuse

TOKYO (Reuters) - Faced with the prospect of a multi-billion-dollar writedown that could wipe out its shareholders' equity, Japan's Toshiba is running out of fixes: it is burning cash, cannot issue shares and has few easy assets left to sell.

The Tokyo-based conglomerate, which is still recovering from a $1.3 billion accounting scandal in 2015, dismayed investors and lenders again this week by announcing that cost overruns at a U.S. nuclear business bought only last year meant it could now face a crippling charge against profit.

Toshiba says it will be weeks before it can give a final number, but a writedown of the scale expected - as much as 500 billion yen ($4.3 billion), according to one source close to Toshiba - would leave the group scrambling to plug the financial hole and keep up hefty investments in the competitive memory chip industry, which generates the bulk of its operating profit.

Shareholder equity, which represents its accumulated reserves, stood at 363.2 billion yen at the end of September, already just 7.5 percent of total assets.

Toshiba cannot raise cash by issuing shares because of restrictions imposed by the stock exchange after last year's scandal. One source close to the matter said Toshiba had been considering a share issue of around 300 billion yen, but the imminent lifting of those restrictions are now unlikely.

Private equity funding could be an option, but financial sources and investors said Toshiba would likely be forced to sell off more assets and stakes, months after having sold its two most easily marketable businesses: white goods and medical devices.

"Toshiba's immediate problem is that it is burning cash at an alarming rate, and this will be more than challenging," said Ken Courtis, chairman of Starfort Investment Holdings.

"I see little option but to sell a slew of non-core assets."   Continued...

 
The logo of Toshiba Corp is pictured at its headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, August 31, 2015.   REUTERS/Yuya Shino/File Photo - RTX2WSNY