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Takata shares dive 17% on bankruptcy restructuring report

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[TOKYO] Takata shares plunged 17 per cent Thursday on a report that two rival suitors are set to propose bankruptcy restructuring plans for the airbag maker at the centre of the biggest-ever auto safety recall.

The stock fell by its maximum daily loss limit to close at 717 yen after trading had been suspended in the morning following the rescue plan report by Japan's Nikkei business newspaper.

Sweden's Autoliv, the world's leading airbag manufacturer, and a consortium led by US autoparts firm Key Safety Systems, are both expected to present competing turnaround proposals as early as this week, the Nikkei said.

A court-mediated overhaul is seen as likely to win support from Takata's customers, which include leading automakers such as Toyota, Honda, General Motors and BMW, after it recalled more than 100 million airbags globally, it added.

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Takata shares did not trade at the start Thursday as the Tokyo Stock Exchange suspended activity following the Nikkei report.

The bourse lifted the suspension during the lunch break when Takata issued a statement saying it had made no concrete decisions on its future.

"There was a media report saying that major sponsor candidates are proposing legal liquidation. The report is not what we have announced, and we have not decided anything nor is there anything to disclose," Takata said in a statement.

The company has hired a team of outside experts to seek plans for dealing with the airbag recall, it said.

The huge recall came after the discovery of a defect in Takata airbags that can cause them to inflate with excessive force, sending metal and plastic shrapnel from their inflator canisters hurtling towards drivers and passengers.

The problem has been linked to at least 15 deaths and scores of injuries worldwide, sparking lawsuits, regulatory investigations and criminal probes.

Thursday's report in the Nikkei, which did not cite sources, said the committee charged with Takata's overhaul has been mulling proposals from five possible investors, but that Autoliv and the Key Safety camp are the only candidates remaining.

After consulting with automakers and Takata's founding family, the committee plans to make a final decision on the proposals as early as February, the story said.

Takata itself has been opposing a court-mediated overhaul on concerns it would disrupt the supply of replacement parts for its airbags, Bloomberg News reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Last week, Takata agreed to plead guilty to fraud and pay US$1 billion to settle the faulty airbag scandal with US regulators, but that was not likely to be the end of its liabilities over the affair.

The United States also has indicted three former Takata executives, bringing the first criminal charges in the case.

REUTERS

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