SK Chairman Chey willing to acquire Toshiba unit

From : Korea Times

SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won has expressed his strong willingness to buy Toshiba's flash memory unit, raising speculation that he may hike his bidding price.

"As current Toshiba bids are non-binding and offers could change, the prices hold no significance at this point," Chey told reporters after a lecture on the Seoul campus of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), Thursday.

"When the main binding bidding kicks off, our bidding price will be different."

His remarks came amid concerns that SK hynix's preliminary bid for the Japanese firm's NAND flash memory business was lower than those proposed by rivals.

If Toshiba goes for the highest bid for its semiconductor business, Taiwan-based manufacturing giant Hon Hai would win out. The firm, better known as Foxxcon, has reportedly offered 3 trillion yen ($27.5 billion), far higher than the initial estimated value of 1 trillion yen. U.S. chipmaker Broadcom partnering with private equity firm Silver Lake Partners offered 2 trillion yen.

In comparison, the bid by SK hynix is believed to be somewhere between 1 and 2 trillion yen.

SK hynix was the world's second-largest DRAM supplier in terms of market share in the fourth quarter of last year, but it was fifth in the NAND sector. DRAMs are used widely in personal computers, while NAND flash memory chips are mainly used in smartphones and other mobile devices.

To jack up its ranking in the NAND segment, SK has been keen on purchasing the memory operations of Toshiba, the world's second-largest maker of NAND flash memory chips.

In addition, a successful Toshiba deal will help SK narrow the gap with Samsung Electronics by securing technology and raising its market share. Samsung is the dominant leader in both types of chips.

Toshiba initially planned to sell a 20 percent stake in its well-performing unit, but its urgent need to offset ballooning losses from its nuclear energy operation in the United States has forced the Japanese company to sell the unit in its entirety.

Despite Chey's willingness, there are some obstacles including the Japanese government's reluctance to see Toshiba's cutting-edge technology falling into the hands of a foreign company.

The preferred bidder will be selected around June.