Toshiba’s chief executive is planning to step down as a private equity bidding war erupts for control of the venerable Japanese tech conglomerate, according to reports.
Sources told Reuters that Nobuaki Kurumatani, who faces a board meeting on Wednesday that was expected to discuss removing him, will resign before he can be taken out of the running.
It comes after the Financial Times reported that New-York-based investment fund KKR is preparing to challenge its British rival CVC Capital Partners’ £14.5bn buyout offer with a rival bid of its own.
Mr Kurumatani, who previously ran CVC’s Japanese operations, has been under sustained pressure from activist investors that a buyout by his old employer would have relieved.
The CVC announcement last week is said to have thrown Toshiba’s upper echelons into “civil war”, with at least two major shareholders asking the board to be open to any other bids from private equity groups.
Hong-Kong-based Oasis Management criticised CVC’s proposal as “far below fair value”, while US hedge fund Farallon Capital Management urged Toshiba’s management to seek multiple offers.
Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management, which bought the US nuclear power company Westinghouse Electric from Toshiba in 2018, is also expected to produce its own bid.
A spokesman for Toshiba declined to comment beyond a previous statement from board chairman Osamu Nagayama, which said CVC’s offer had been “completely unsolicited and not initiated by Toshiba” and vowed to act in the best interests of shareholders.
KKR, CVC and Brookfield declined to comment.
Toshiba has struggled to recover from a huge accounting scandal in 2015 and a $6.3bn (£4.6bn) writedown at Westinghouse in 2017. Trading of its shares was halted on Tokyo’s stock exchange last week after the company confirmed CVC’s initial approach.
CVC, which is headquartered in Luxembourg and has its main office in London, was reportedly considering paying 30pc over the odds for Toshiba’s shares to take the company private, allowing faster decision-making and shielding it from activist pressure.
Either CVC or KKR’s bid would make for Japan’s biggest ever leveraged buyout, but would require some work to assuage the government’s concerns about losing control of one of its most famous corporate names.
One way of sweetening the deal would be to form a consortium allowing domestic owners to retain majority control, or including state-backed funds such as the Japan Investment Corporation. Mr Nagayama said that CVC had proposed working with “certain co-investors and financial institutions” to fund the deal.
Mr Kurumatani has repeatedly clashed with investors since taking over. Last month he failed to thwart a shareholder motion for an independent investigation into alleged “shareholder suppression” at the previous year’s annual general meeting, following an internal probe that found no evidence of executive pressure.
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