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Toshiba in no-nonsense response to Western Digital over semiconductor sale

Toshiba has reportedly threatened to bar Western Digital staff from accessing the Japan-based semiconductor facility jointly owned by the two companies if it doesn’t take a more conciliatory attitude towards Toshiba’s sale of its stake to the highest bidder. 

The company has given Western Digital until Monday to comply. 

It follows threats in April by Western Digital to block the sale of its 50 per cent stake in their semiconductor joint venture, which manufactures in-demand NAND flash modules.

Western Digital claims that only one of the bidders for the stake is acceptable to the company – Western Digital itself. 

In two letters sent earlier this month, Toshiba asserted its legal right to sell its stake in the business to whoever it wants and pointed out that Toshiba did not seek to block Western Digital’s takeover of what is now its stake in the venture when it acquired SanDisk, Toshiba’s original partner, in May 2016.

“If Western Digital continues to interfere with Toshiba’s rights to sell its affiliate – rights embodied in the joint venture agreements that Western Digital itself relied on when it bought SanDisk – Toshiba will have no choice but to pursue all available remedies,” asserted Toshiba in one of the letters, seen by Bloomberg.

Toshiba also pointed out that Western Digital failed to ratify a proposal to formalise the relationship between the two companies after it acquired SanDisk and that, if it carries on sabre-rattling, it will bar Western Digital staff from the facilities, which are based in Japan and effectively controlled by Toshiba.

Western Digital has been given until Monday 15 May to comply with Toshiba’s demands.

In April, Western Digital threatened to block any takeover deal by any of the other bidders, claiming that they were all unsuitable. The shortlist includes Hynix, Foxconn and Broadcom, as well as Western Digital, with Foxconn and Broadcom the front-runners. Toshiba is hoping to have the deal completed by March 2018.

Outgunned financially in the bidding, Bloomberg suggests that it will seek to join up with a private equity bid led by KKR.

Western Digital became Toshiba’s 50-50 joint venture partners in the semiconductor manufacturing business after it acquired SanDisk in a $15.8bn deal in May 2016.

Because of the high cost of that deal, Western Digital is unable to compete with other bidders for Toshiba’s 50 per cent stake in that business – offering only around $9bn, according to reports, against up to $27bn bid by Foxconn.

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