Japan tech giant Toshiba studying going private as an option

TOKYO (AP) — Toshiba executives said Friday that privatization remains an option for the Japanese technology company, as they defended their efforts to choose the right bidder to restore what they called “a strong Toshiba.”

Tokyo-based Toshiba has been trying to win over shareholders to a restructuring plan. The company has not given the nationalities or other details of the potential investor partners, including eight that have recommended that Toshiba Corp. go private.

Toshiba’s chairperson, Jerry Black, stressed in an online news conference that how bidders’ proposals are evaluated will be transparent to all stakeholders.

The goal is for Toshiba to go through what he called a “radical transformation” quickly, showing a clear direction and leadership, Black told reporters.

In March, investors rejected a company-backed reform proposal to split Toshiba into two businesses.

Some shareholders, including foreign investment funds and U.S.-based proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholders Services, opposed the plan. An earlier plan that also was scrapped had called for a three-way split.

Black, who has experience in international consulting and turning around troubled Japanese companies, and Taro Shimada, a former executive at Siemens, have been trying to come up with another plan.

“It’s important that we focus our assets to move forward. Many people are saying Toshiba has weakened,” said Shimada, who took over as chief executive three months ago.

The options will be narrowed down after a June 28 general shareholders’ meeting, according to Toshiba. The company is seeking shareholders’ approval at that meeting for nominations of some outside directors to the board. The selected investment partners will be asked to submit legally binding proposals in July.

Japan Investment Corp., owned partly by the Japanese government, and U.S. investment fund Bain Capital are reportedly among those trying to acquire Toshiba.

Black said Toshiba was working closely with the Japanese government in evaluating its options.

It remains unclear if a suitor needs a Japanese partner to be able to close the deal.

“Japan and the world will need a strong Toshiba,” Black told reporters.

Toshiba has been struggling since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011. A tsunami sent three reactors into meltdowns, spewing radiation over an area that’s still partly a no-go zone. The company is involved in the decommissioning effort, which will take decades.

Its reputation also was tarnished by an accounting scandal, which involved books being doctored for years.

Toshiba has recently promised to boost its value by focusing on digital businesses, data services and infrastructure, such as light-detection technology, flexible materials, batteries and next-generation nuclear reactors.

Former chief executive Satoshi Tsunakawa, who had tried to lead Toshiba through reforms in recent years, is stepping down from the board.

Toshiba, founded about 150 years ago, had prided itself on its technological prowess for decades. It still has a sprawling business that includes computers, electronic devices and home appliances.

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Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

Stacee R. Grigg

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