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Toshiba's chip sale talks are said to stall over payment timing

[TOKYO] Toshiba Corp's talks to sell its chips business to a consortium led by Bain Capital hit an impasse over the timing of payments for the business and governance issues, according to people familiar with the matter, casting doubt on the company's ability to complete a deal quickly.

The Bain group wants to make cash payments after Toshiba resolves a legal dispute with partner Western Digital Corp, while Toshiba wants the money earlier, said the people, asking not to be named because the matter is private. Toshiba President Satoshi Tsunakawa said last week the company would hold talks with other possible acquirers because it hadn't been able to reach final terms with the the Bain group, which had been designated the preferred bidder, without explaining the reasons. After a multi-billion writedown in its US nuclear business, Toshiba needs to complete the chip unit sale by March or face delisting from the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

The Japanese icon is preparing for delisting even as it tries several strategies to complete the chip sale in time, the people said. On one hand, the company is putting pressure on Western Digital to withdraw its complaint, threatening to cut off access to future chip production the US company needs. On the other, Toshiba is considering alternative bidders such as Foxconn Technology Group, which had earlier expressed interest in the business, the people said.

Mr Tsunakawa, who had originally said he planned to have a definitive agreement by June, said during a press conference after earnings last week that the company wants to avoid delisting.

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"The basic motivation for staying listed is that we do not want to inconvenience our shareholders and investors," he said. "When it comes to delisting, we also need to consider the negative impact it would have on broader markets." He added that Toshiba remains open to cooperation with Western Digital if the two companies can find common ground. Toshiba needs to reach final deal terms by late August or early September to be able to close the sale by March, after antitrust and other government reviews, the people said.