Western Digital files for arbitration to block sale of Toshiba’s chip business

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Computer data storage company Western Digital Corp. is moving forward with its attempt to block Toshiba Corp. from selling off its valuable semiconductor business, which the Japanese tech giant wants to do as soon as possible for a much-needed injection of cash.

Western Digital announced today that it has filed for arbitration with the International Chamber of Commerce in the hope that the ICC will prevent Toshiba from selling its chip business until the company’s joint venture deals with Western Digital have been thoroughly reviewed.

Western Digital argues that Toshiba’s lucrative chip business includes several existing joint-venture deals with flash memory maker Sandisk Corp., which Western Digital purchased in 2015 for more than $19 billion. According to Western Digital, Toshiba transferred its joint-venture interests to the new entity it is looking to sell off without Sandisk’s permission.

These joint-venture deals are valuable for both companies, so while Western Digital is looking out for its own interests, the company also seems eager to avoid any serious conflicts that could damage its relationship with Toshiba. This likely why Western Digital is seeking arbitration rather than more confrontational legal action.

“We continue to be actively engaged in discussions with Toshiba’s stakeholders to ensure that they are fully aware of our joint venture rights and of our desire to work with Toshiba to achieve a favorable outcome for all parties,” Western Digital Chief Executive Steve Milligan said in a statement. “We firmly believe that we provide Toshiba with the optimal solution to address its challenges, and that we are the best partner to advance its legacy of technology innovation in Japan.”

But he added that Toshiba’s attempt to spin out its joint venture interests into an affiliate and then sell that affiliate is “explicitly prohibited without SanDisk’s consent. Seeking relief through mandatory arbitration was not our first choice in trying to resolve this matter. However, all of our other efforts to achieve a resolution to date have been unsuccessful, and so we believe legal action is now a necessary next step.”

Since Toshiba announced that it would be selling its chip business, the company has drawn a number of interested parties that are reportedly entering bids as high as $27 billion. According to a report in April by NHK, Japan’s public broadcasting organization, two of the companies looking to buy the segment include Apple Inc. and its supplier, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., more commonly known as Foxconn.

Photo: Neil Thompson (Flickr: pIO – microSD Adapter for Raspberry Pi) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons