Toshiba Goes GE With Three-Way Split

Three days after General Electric said it was splitting into three, scandal-plagued Toshiba announced a similar move that will dismantle the Japanese industrial giant.

Toshiba’s plan, unveiled on Friday, would split the company into three businesses focused on infrastructure, semiconductors, and devices. The semiconductor company will retain the Toshiba name and a 40.6% stake in memory chipmaker Kioxia as well as other assets.

“We are convinced that the business separation is attractive and compelling: it will unlock immense value by removing complexity; it enables the businesses to have much more focused management, facilitating agile decision making; and the separation naturally enhances choices for shareholders,” Toshiba CEO Satoshi Tsunakawa said.

The Toshiba board’s strategy committee said it envisioned the separate units would dispose of other assets and that private-equity firms were interested in buying parts of the company, with the reorganization expected to be completed by the second half of 2023.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, the moves “add up to the de facto dismantling of a conglomerate whose roots date to 1875” and which, with its broad lineup of industrial and consumer businesses, was once the Japanese equivalent of GE.

But an accounting scandal in 2015 resulted in foreign-based shareholders owning more than half of Toshiba and the company has been shrinking in recent years, selling off businesses including medical devices, personal computers, consumer electronics, and its U.S. nuclear-power unit.

The foreign shareholders helped oust Toshiba’s chairman this year and produced a board dominated by financiers and executives with overseas experience.

“Toshiba lost trust after its accounting scandal came to light,” said Rakuten Securities strategist Masayuki Kubota, adding that “It is a good decision to break up into three pieces and rebuild its governance.”

But the Journal said the proposal still may not go far enough to satisfy shareholders, who will vote on it at a special meeting in the first quarter of 2022. “While a breakup may boost the value of some of Toshiba’s mishmash of businesses, it’s unclear whether it will actually result in better-run enterprises,” it said.

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