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Toshiba in talks with Western Digital, Apple-backed Foxconn consortium about chip unit sale

Despite having picked another group as the preferred bidder for its memory business, Toshiba is reportedly talking to two other interested parties as well —Western Digital, and a Foxconn consortium including Apple, Dell, and Kingston.




Toshiba has informed creditor banks of the negotiations, Reuters sources said on Tuesday. The company itself has confirmed only that it's talking to parties beyond the preferred bidder, an alliance of Innovation Network Corp. of Japan (INCJ), the Development Bank of Japan (DBJ), U.S. equity firm Bain Capital, and South Korean memory maker SK Hynix.

"Toshiba had no option but to say it's in talks with other suitors because the preferred consortium is falling through," an official involved in the negotiations said.

Toshiba missed a self-selected June 28 deadline to announce a deal. Reuters sources indicated that the current stumbling block is an SK Hynix proposal that its financing be done using convertible bonds, which would give it a path towards equity interest. Toshiba is said to be opposed to giving the company any equity or management influence, since the Japanese government is aiming to keep Toshiba's memory unit under local control, and important technology away from foreign firms.

INCJ and the DBJ could choose to back a deal with Western Digital, sources said. The latter has actually fought with Toshiba, since Toshiba's main chip factory is operated as a joint venture. In fact Western Digital is pursuing a U.S. court injunction, arguing that Toshiba can't conduct a sale without its consent. In related filings, it has claimed to have matched rival bids.

In late June Toshiba launched a $1.07 billion lawsuit against Western Digital, trying to keep the chip unit sale on track. It also began blocking access to information in the joint venture, charging that Western Digital staff gained improper access to proprietary data.

Though unlikely because of its Chinese ties, a Foxconn win might help Apple ensure a steady supply of memory at reasonable costs. Foxconn is Apple's main assembly partner, and already owns Sharp, an Apple display supplier.