We’ve known for weeks that Toshiba was in rough shape and seeking to raise additional revenue through a potential partial sale to Western Digital, but events on Tuesday pushed the company’s position from “really bad” to “implosion imminent.”
Today, Toshiba announced that it would take a $6.2 billion write-down on the value of its nuclear plant construction business. Toshiba acquired a majority stake in Westinghouse Electric Company in 2006, and later upped its share of the company to 87% in 2013. Toshiba paid $5.4 billion for the company in 2006 and an additional $1.6 billion in 2013. In 2015, Toshiba declared its nuclear business was more profitable now than when the company acquired it, but scandals over the Japanese firm’s accounting broke soon thereafter.
Westinghouse is far from the only nuclear engineering firm that Toshiba owns, but it’s near the heart of this scandal. In 2015, Westinghouse bought an American construction company, CBI Stone Webster. Toshiba now says that Westinghouse overpaid for the company and that information material to the acquisition — specifically cost overruns, delays, and the impact both would have on CBI Stone Webster’s bottom line — were not disclosed properly or accounted for.
Toshiba also announced today that it would take a $3.4 billion loss (estimated) due to cost overruns at multiple key nuclear projects, and that it would review all of its agreements with existing power companies to expand nuclear capability across the globe. Toshiba plans to pivot towards emphasizing existing service contracts as opposed to bidding on nuclear plant construction projects, though it does still hope to sell some of its AP1000 reactors. The AP1000 is a pressurized water reactor, and the latest design from Westinghouse has deployments scheduled to come online this year in Sanmen, China. This deployment is running 2-3 years late, which may be part of why Toshiba is taking such heavy losses.
In England, Toshiba’s announcement that it would withdraw from nuclear construction contracts outside of Japan hasn’t played well. Toshiba owns 60% of the firm NuGen, which was to construct a new generating station at Moorside in Cumbria. Now, Toshiba is looking to sell its stake in the company to Korea Electric Power, though it noted it would still be interested in selling the AP1000 reactors if conditions were right.
Shigenori Shiga, Toshiba’s chairman, has announced he will step down on Wednesday to take responsibility for the company’s performance, but that’s scarcely going to slow things down. Toshiba has requested another 30 days to prepare its financial and quarterly statements for the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Its stock value has fallen by more than 50% since December 14.
Current expectations are that Toshiba will have no choice but to file for bankruptcy, sell a significant amount of assets, and attempt to survive that way. Given the fallout of these events, you might be wondering why Toshiba doesn’t just sell its nuclear business — but according to The New York Times, it’s had no luck finding a buyer. Last month, the firm announced it would spin off its microchip business, with an estimated value of $13 billion to $17 billion if Toshiba sold its entire stake. That would pay off the company’s immediate debts, but would leave it holding the bag on an incredibly expensive, underwhelming nuclear business with no prospects for near-term improvement.