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Toshiba on Wednesday announced an $18 billion agreement to sell its memory chip business to a group of companies led by U.S. equity firm Bain Capital, one prominent backer likely being Apple.
Toshiba apparently swung away from a deal with joint venture partner Western Digital within a matter of hours, according to Reuters. Indeed the company said that a deal could still be blocked by WD, which has challenged Toshiba's right to sell to other firms given involvement in a major factory.
Some other parties in the Bain consortium are believed to include Apple and Dell. Apple in particular could be contributing $3 billion, which wouldn't be a controlling stake, but enough to exert influence. Some reports have suggested that Apple was prepared to back any of three bidders to ensure its participation.
Apple is critically dependent on memory supply, being not only one of the world's biggest electronics makers, but often unable to cope with demand when it launches new products — especially iPhones.
Exacerbating the situation is an ongoing NAND memory shortage, which is thought to be why Apple hiked the prices for 256- and 512-gigabyte iPad Pro models. That might also help explain why the iPhone 8 starts at $699, rather than the $649 mark iPhones maintained for years — though other technologies like wireless charging are likely a factor.