Toshiba wins auditor sign-off, likely avoiding delisting for now

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Toshiba Corp has secured its auditor’s sign-off on its financial results, likely avoiding an immediate delisting, although its future hung in the balance with no progress in talks to sell its chips business.

Toshiba said on Thursday that PriceWaterhouseCoopers Aarata LLC (PwC) had given a “qualified opinion” on its results for the year through March as well as for the April-June quarter. That means it broadly vouched for Toshiba’s book-keeping despite finding minor problems.

Sources, however, have said that PwC will give a rare, “adverse opinion” on Toshiba’s internal controls in an annual report due to be filed later on Thursday. Toshiba has struggled to win back the trust of shareholders since a 2015 accounting scandal, in which it admitted to inflating profits over several years.

It is still up to the Tokyo Stock Exchange to decide whether Toshiba can stay listed, but analysts have said it is unlikely to order a delisting.

Earlier media reports had said the auditor could give a straightforward, adverse opinion, possibly prompting a delisting of the 140-year-old company. That would have hurt its ability to raise money for its cash-hungry memory-chip business, jeopardizing its competitiveness.

Even with the reprieve, however, analysts have said Toshiba’s long-term prospects were still bleak. The conglomerate is trying to sell its chip unit to pay down debt and cover the impact of a $6.33 billion writedown and liabilities linked to U.S. nuclear arm Westinghouse, but talks have stalled.

Toshiba’s joint venture partner Western Digital Corp, which says any deal would require its consent, has opposed the deal and has taken Toshiba to court in addition to putting in a competing offer.

That has unnerved the bidder group, a consortium including Japanese government-backed funds, private equity firm Bain Capital and South Korean chip maker SK Hynix Inc.

Given regulatory approvals for any chip sale are likely to take at least several months, analysts say the company needs to reach a deal in weeks – rather than months – if it wants to be sure to close the deal by the end of the current fiscal year.

Reporting negative net worth – liabilities exceeding assets – for the second year running would likely prompt a delisting from the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Toshiba said its negative shareholder equity as of end-June was 504.3 billion yen ($4.58 billion).

For April-June, it reported an operating profit of 96.7 billion yen, up from 16.3 billion yen a year earlier, due to strong demand for its flash memory chips. It also raised its profit forecast for the current year to 430 billion yen from a previous 230 billion yen.

Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki and Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Christopher Cushing