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Toshiba staffer punts semicon sell-off

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Toshiba may be planning to follow Siemens' lead an spin off its semiconductor business into an independent company. Interviewed by Dow Jones, Yoshihide Fujii, general manager of the strategic planning division of Toshiba's semicon operation, said: "I personally think the semiconductor company should be spun off from Toshiba as a legal entity." "To get flexible management, I think such a spin-off is necessary," he added. Fujii said that Toshiba would retain control of the new operation by retaining at least 50 per cent of the stock. He suggested the rest would be bought by another firm as a joint venture or by merging its own semiconductor business with Toshiba's. Since company staff who make such incautious remarks usually find themselves in the unemployment line shortly after, Fujii's remarks are likely to be semi-official, made to see what the industry's reaction might be. And if Toshiba is interested in such feedback, that suggests it's seriously considering a spin off. The precedent here is Siemens' decision first to form its own semicon business into a separate company, Infineon, and then float it off in an IPO, a process that could begin as early as October. Siemens motivation behind the move was Infineon's financial troubles, troubles largely shared by Toshiba's own semiconductor division. Like Infineon, Toshiba's operation has been losing money: last year the electronic devices and materials division, of which the semiconductor business is a part, lost Y68.72 billion. Toshiba also has the precedent of its joint venture with Sony, which will fab the so-called Emotion Engine processor that will power the upcoming PlayStation II. Then there's the Dominion DRAM company JV with IBM, though it is believed IBM wants out. Having to take on the entire company may well add impetus to Toshiba's plan to float the whole thing off. ®

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