(Reuters) — Japan’s Toshiba has pushed again its timeline to clinch a sale of its prized flash reminiscence chip unit, saying the $18 billion deal was being held up as a consequence of variations of opinion throughout the consortium chosen as most well-liked bidder.

The delay got here because the conglomerate sued its chip enterprise associate Western Digital for interfering within the sale, at some point after the U.S. agency resubmitted a bid for the unit. The lawsuit pushes acrimony between the 2 to new heights and additional complicates prospects for a deal.

Scrambling to cowl billions of in price overruns at its bankrupt Westinghouse nuclear unit, Toshiba had pledged to have a signed settlement for the sale of the unit – the world’s No. 2 producer of NAND chips – by Wednesday, the day of its annual shareholders assembly.

The hotly contested public sale has seen a consortium, led by Japanese authorities traders and together with U.S. personal fairness agency Bain Capital, chosen as most well-liked bidder however the group’s supply was only unexpectedly and awkwardly put collectively this month.

That bid has been largely orchestrated by Japan’s commerce ministry, which is eager to maintain semiconductor expertise beneath home management.

Chief Government Satoshi Tsunakawa stated the agency was now aiming for an settlement with the popular bidder consortium as early as doable and a accomplished transaction by the top of the monetary 12 months in March.

“It is taking time to smooth out differences in opinion among members of the consortium,” he stated, after apologising for a string of humiliating setbacks that embody Toshiba’s demotion to the second part of the Tokyo bourse.

There seems, nonetheless, to be little chance of a fast and clean conclusion to the deal.

Western Digital, which collectively runs Toshiba’s fundamental semiconductor plant, claims that its associate is breaching three way partnership contracts and is in search of a U.S. courtroom injunction to forestall any deal that doesn’t have its consent – actions that prompted Toshiba’s lawsuit on Wednesday.

Toshiba executives continued to supply a string of blended messages on their willingness to resolve the spat with the California-based agency.

On one hand, Tsunakawa lambasted the Western Digital on the shareholders assembly, saying it had been interfering within the sale. However the head of Toshiba’s chip unit additionally stated the Japanese firm was ready to make concessions and hoped to resolve the dispute as quickly as doable.

Toshiba argues that Western Digital’s bid for the reminiscence unit presents anti-trust points and is just too low in value.

Western Digital has stated it supply meets the two trillion yen ($18 billion) minimal demanded by Toshiba – a determine that seems to match the quantity provided by the popular bidder.

Western Digital tries once more

It’s not clear if the phrases of the bid that Western Digital resubmitted on Tuesday with associate U.S. personal fairness agency KKR & Co had considerably modified.

Western Digital stated it would present debt financing to facilitate a sale. Sources with data of the matter have stated a state-backed fund, the Innovation Community Corp of Japan (INCJ), and the Growth Financial institution of Japan (DBJ) that are at present a part of most well-liked bidder consortium – could be invited to affix the resubmitted supply.

 Whereas it was not instantly clear what elements of Toshiba’s talks with the popular bidder consortium had been taking time, sources have stated some Toshiba board members are involved about expertise leaks to South Korean chip rival SK Hynix, which is a part of the consortium and can present Bain with financing.

Western Digital has additionally stated it’s strongly against SK Hynix’s participation and has threatened additional authorized motion.

Toshiba’s lawsuit, filed with the Tokyo District Courtroom, seeks round $1 billion in damages.

The Japanese agency additionally stated it had shut out Western Digital workers based mostly outdoors their Yokkaichi chip plant from accessing info referring to the 2 firms’ three way partnership – a transfer that threatens to impede R&D work on next-generation NAND reminiscence chips.

Western Digital declined to touch upon the lawsuit. It stated in assertion it had reiterated its considerations in regards to the sale course of and SK Hynix’s participation to Toshiba.

The U.S. courtroom listening to for its injunction request is scheduled for July 14.

($1 = 112.3600 yen)

(Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki,; Further reporting by Taro Fuse, Kentaro Hamada and Sam Nussey; Enhancing by Edwina Gibbs)

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