Less than a year in, Toshiba revival plan falls apart
Toshiba chairman Shigenori Shiga ready to step down - NikkeiAt a news conference on Friday, CEO Satoshi Tsunakawa stressed the need to restructure the company's nuclear power business. "We will review, especially in our overseas markets, whether we want contracts that include the construction of nuclear plants or if we want to specialize in making equipment," he said.
The Japanese company began a full-fledged foray abroad on nuclear power in 2006. It acquired U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric to much fanfare, and set an aggressive goal of scoring contracts to build about 40 reactors in China, India and other countries. But the 2011 Fukushima disaster threw a wrench into these plans.
The nuclear power business will be broken off from Toshiba's energy systems segment and report directly to the CEO. The company will increase its involvement in Westinghouse and start an incremental review of its nuclear-related operations as a whole, including the possibility of a spinoff. It has even suggested shrinking the business abroad, such as through a freeze on new projects.
Toshiba scales back nuclear ambitionsToshiba Corp Chairman Shigenori Shiga is ready to step down to take responsibility for the huge write-downs looming over the Japanese group's U.S. nuclear power unit Westinghouse Electric Co LLC, the Nikkei business daily reported.
Shiga was chairman of Westinghouse when the unit booked charges of $930 million in fiscal 2012 and $390 million in fiscal 2013, which Toshiba failed to flag at the time in violation of the Tokyo bourse's disclosure rules.
Westinghouse Chairman Danny Roderick is also expected to resign as president of Toshiba's in-house energy systems and solutions company, the Japanese business daily reported.
Toshiba is scaling back ambitions for its nuclear business, highlighting the depths of the company’s financial crisis and the failing economics of nuclear construction.
The move, which was announced by the company’s president on Friday in Tokyo and could see Toshiba ruling itself out of future nuclear construction bids around the world, follows an emergency board meeting earlier in the day to discuss the survival of one of Japan’s best known industrial conglomerates.
Toshiba’s nuclear climbdown deals a blow to Japan’s broader ambitions of bidding for nuclear construction projects around the world — a key aim of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “Abenomics” economic revival programme and a driving force behind his unprecedented global diplomatic push.
Other capital-raising measures to prevent Toshiba falling into negative net worth include splitting off the company’s profit-generating memory chip business — the most valuable jewel in Toshiba’s crown — as a prelude to a stake sale and a potential initial public offering. The company will also look at selling other assets from its portfolio of more than 500 subsidiaries.
Toshiba said it would sell a stake amounting to 20 per cent or less of the memory company, with its value defined by a bidding process expected to involve a combination of industrial and private equity investors. Analysts have previously placed a notional value on Toshiba’s memory business of ¥1.5tn-¥1.9tn ($13bn-$16.5bn). Bankers have suggested Toshiba would be looking to raise about ¥200bn from the stake sale. Toshiba had previously positioned both the memory business and the global expansion of its nuclear business at the heart of growth plans, saying last year it expected to win 50 contracts to build new nuclear plants in India and China over the next decade. But the company may now limit its ambitions to building turbines and other equipment after the company’s chief executive, Satoshi Tsunakawa, said it would “reconsider the future of the overseas nuclear business”.
Domestically, Toshiba said it would continue to focus on servicing and decommissioning Japan’s existing fleet of nuclear reactors, many of which it built. They include two of the reactors at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant, where the 2011 tsunami and subsequent meltdowns have tied Toshiba into many decades of decommissioning work.
The overseas nuclear pullback heralds yet another phase of shrinkage for a company only just recovering from a 2015 accounting scandal in which it padded reported profits by about $1.3bn over seven years. As well as tumbling into loss in the wake of that scandal, the company was forced to make huge cuts to headcount — a measure analysts say is likely to have hurt the company’s competitiveness. Toshiba, which faces a still undisclosed writedown on its nuclear business that it has warned will amount to several billion dollars, also said on Friday it was “re-examining its relationship” with Westinghouse — the struggling US nuclear group in which the Japanese group bought a controlling stake a decade ago. Analysts identify the Westinghouse deal, which forced Toshiba’s Japanese management to cope with risks they were ill-equipped to handle, as a pivotal moment in Toshiba’s decline. Mr Tsunakawa said the company’s nuclear business would now “aim to proceed by becoming stronger at cutting out risk”. Mr Tsunakawa used Friday’s press conference to apologise for the “damage caused” to investors from the Westinghouse subsidiary, where delays and cost overruns on nuclear construction projects in the US will now be expressed as writedowns that analysts estimate could be as high as $7bn. The company is due to reveal the true figure on February 14 but most observers believe it will be large enough to wipe out Toshiba’s stated shareholder equity of $3bn.