According to sources that are close to the issue, antitrust officials in China’s Ministry of Commerce are currently investigating the role that South Korea’s Hynix Inc. will play in the sale of Toshiba Corp.’s memory chip business. The antitrust officials are concerned as they are currently reviewing the deal.
Chinese officials are currently investigating the fact that the South Korean company will do away with a large stake in the business if Toshiba’s memory chip unit sell goes ahead. This was revealed by the sources who preferred not to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the matter. They further added that Toshiba would have to reassure the regulatory officials that the sale will not hurt their competition. To see that things are done right, the ministry could impose conditions on a deal, they added.
Currently, China is the largest market for semiconductors globally, with the country investing billions as they look to build their domestic industry. Hynix is the second-biggest maker of memory chips in the country and is a part of the group led by Bain Capital that will purchase the memory chip business from Toshiba in a deal worth 2 trillion yen ($18 billion). Hynix is financing its part of the deal via its convertible bonds that will see it control 15% of the voting right in the business.
When contacted, China’s ministry of commerce didn’t respond to comment request, while Hynix declined to make any comment both Toshiba and Bain wasn’t immediately able to comment.
Toshiba is forced to sell its chip unit to balance its sheet after it lost billions of dollars from its nuclear energy operations in the U.S. The purchasing consortium Bain’s group of investors also includes Apple Inc., Dell Inc. and Japan’s Hoya Corp. According to the deal, Toshiba will still hold a stake in the business, while Hoya Corp. will control a majority of voting stock. Thus the control of the business will still be left with Toshiba.
The deal faced some challenges initially though Toshiba and Western Digital Corp., a current partner in the chips business last week settled their dispute regarding the sale of the memory chip unit. The U.S Company decided to let the deal go through after they reached an agreement with Toshiba to invest in two new chip plants in Japan while their memory chip supplies wouldn’t be affected.