Toshiba (TOSYY) on Thursday won approval from angry shareholders to separate its flash memory business in preparation for a sale that the company hopes will offset massive liabilities from the bankruptcy of its Westinghouse nuclear energy unit.
Toshiba shares climbed 4% Thursday to close at ¥228.20 ($2.06), in the wake of the vote, after analysts warned that a failure to secure shareholder support for the sale would imperil the entire company.
Investors vented their anger at a meeting for the vote, variously accusing management of incompetence, calling them "trash" and declaring that they had made Toshiba a "laughing stock."
Toshiba shares have crashed more than 50% since 2014 as losses mounted at its Westinghouse unit due primarily to massive cost overuns at two nuclear projects in the U.S. The Japanese company warned that it will likely book charges of ¥712.5 billion from the failed business, which filed for bankruptcy in New York on Wednesday.
Toshiba said in February that it would have to sell a majority stake, and possibly all, of its memory chip operation to offset a full-year loss that is likely to tip the scale at ¥1.01 trillion for the year ending March, a deficit that would be one of the largest in Japanese corporate history.
"Toshiba Group urgently needs to enhance its capital structure," management noted in a circular issued for the meeting on Thursday. "To implement these measures smoothly, early implementation of the splitting-off of the transferred business is necessary."
Toshiba will waste no time getting the sale process underway. Bids for the unit are due Thursday and Toshiba hopes to complete the sale before the end of March 2018.
Goldman Sachs earlier this month estimated that the memory chip business could be worth about ¥2.056 trillion yen ($18.5 billion), based on the 18 times earning multiple that Western Digital (WDC) - Get Report agreed to pay when it struck a $19 billion deal for flash memory maker Scandisk.
There is likely to be strong demand for the business, with as many as a dozen companies lodging interest in the unit, according to reports. Western Digital, Foxconn (FXCOF) of Taiwan, Micron Technology (MU) - Get Report , Innovation Network Corp. of Japan, as well as numerous investment funds have all been linked with possible offers.
Toshiba's memory chips are used in phones, computers and at data centers. The unit made 5.67 trillion yen in sales in the year to March 2016, accounting for about a quarter of all of Toshiba's revenues. It will be transferred to a separate company called Toshiba Memory Corp. on April 1.