Toshiba faces earnings deadline as delisting looms

Miwa SUZUKI
Toshiba faces a looming deadline to publish a long-overdue earnings report with the loss-hit industrial giant's shares at risk of being yanked from the Tokyo stock exchange

Toshiba faced a deadline Tuesday to publish a long-overdue earnings report with the loss-hit industrial giant's shares at risk of being pulled from the Tokyo stock exchange.

One of Japan's best-known firms, Toshiba will reportedly release unaudited nine-month results after missing an original deadline in February and another one in March.

The deadline comes as media reports say Taiwanese giant Foxconn is offering to pay the cash-strapped firm up to 3.0 trillion yen ($27 billion) for its prized memory chip business.

Financial regulators have given Toshiba more time to assess the impact of huge losses at its US nuclear unit Westinghouse Electric, which filed for bankruptcy protection last month.

The firm has already warned that annual losses could blow out to 1.01 trillion yen, compared with an earlier projected shortfall of 390 billion yen.

Toshiba has until Tuesday to release its April-December results.

If it fails to publish them and regulators refuse another extension, the company has eight business days to April 21 to produce results or face a delisting, the bourse said, in what would be a humiliation for the once-proud pillar of Japan Inc.

Japanese financial regulators have never approved a third earnings release delay for a listed company.

The leading Nikkei business daily and other Japanese media said Tuesday that Toshiba has yet to get its auditor to sign off on its results.

Toshiba has said it needed more time to probe claims of financial misconduct by senior managers at Westinghouse and gauge the impact on its finances.

The probe was started after a whistleblower complained that one or more executives at the US unit exerted "inappropriate pressure" on its accounting.

Toshiba's auditor reportedly suspects that the alleged wrongdoing had been going on for longer than previously thought, which could mean revising earlier financial statements.

- Stock collapse -

Toshiba shares have been hammered this year, losing more than half their value since late December when it first warned of multi-billion-dollar losses at Westinghouse.

They fell 2.69 percent to finish at 223.5 yen on Tuesday.

The crisis comes less than two years after Toshiba's reputation was badly damaged by separate revelations that top executives had pressured underlings to cover up weak results for years after the 2008 global financial meltdown.

The huge conglomerate -- which has 188,000 employees globally -- once touted its overseas nuclear business as a future growth driver, filling a hole left after the 2011 Fukushima crisis slammed the brakes on new atomic projects in Japan.

But delays and cost overruns have hit Westinghouse's finances hard.

Toshiba has sold a number of assets, including a medical devices unit and most of its home appliance business.

Turkish electronics manufacturer Vestel said Monday it is in talks to buy Toshiba's television unit.

South Korea's Hynix and American chipmaker Broadcom are among the firms in the running for Toshiba's flash memory business, along with Apple-supplier Foxconn, which bought Japanese electronics giant Sharp last year.

Selling the division, which accounts for about one-quarter of Toshiba's 5.6 trillion yen in annual revenue, is seen as key for the company to turn itself around.

Toshiba is the world's number two chipmaker behind South Korean rival Samsung.

But any foreign buyer -- particularly a Chinese suitor -- would need to pass a Japanese government review, given concerns about security around systems already using Toshiba's memory chips, which are widely used in data centres as well as smartphones and computers.

Japanese media have said the government was in talks with domestic firms about putting together a bid to keep the technology from going abroad.