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Toshiba troubles casts doubt on Vietnamese plans

Toshiba’s colossal losses and the resulting distrust of creditors may negatively affect its operations in Vietnam and raise questions about the future of its plans here.

Toshiba troubles casts doubt on Vietnamese plans

On February 14, Toshiba announced that it will postpone the disclosure of its earnings for the fiscal year of 2016's third quarter (ended December 31, 2016) by up to one month. At the same time, it reported its provisional earnings results, including a ¥712.5 billion ($6.31 billion) impairment loss and a ¥499.9 billion ($4.43 billion) net loss, resulting in negative shareholders' equity.

On February 16, Toshiba said that lawyers and an independent auditing firm were probing into an acquisition by its US atomic division Westinghouse Electric because a whistleblower had complained of executives exerting "inappropriate pressure" over accounting at the firm.

Most recently, S&P’s February 17 release warned of “selective default” (SD) for Toshiba.

“Even in the event any potential equity sponsor decides to participate and banks continue to provide financial support for the company, if it includes any form of the debt restructuring we define as 'SD,' we will lower the ratings by multiple notches,” the agency said.

“We take a cautious view on whether Toshiba can recover and stabilize its overall profits from its remaining business areas, like elevators, railway systems, and auto parts, after a sale of its NAND flash memory business,” the agency said in its release. “While these businesses generate a certain level of profits, we take a conservative view of further growth, due to the fierce market environment and the company's competitive positions.”

“Even if the company reduces hundreds of billions of yen in debt (out of about ¥1.5 trillion in debt after S&P Global Ratings' adjustments as of September 30, 2016) and improves its shareholders' equity after the sale of its NAND flash memory business, we believe it will not be easy for the company to grow these businesses, given its weak financial standing and limited funding flexibility,” it added.

Toshiba arrived in Vietnam in the 90s, when Vietnam had just opened itself to the world. In October 1996, the company set up its first Vietnamese subsidiary with the name Toshiba Vietnam Consumer Products (TVCP). Now TVCP has six offices in big cities, namely Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Danang, Can Tho, Nha Trang, and Vinh, selling products, including fridges, washing machines, air conditioners, and small appliances, such as water boilers, rice cookers, and vacuum cleaners.

TVCP is still going strong. Meanwhile, the results of Toshiba’s other production activities in Vietnam were less than stellar. Subsidiary Toshiba Asia, set up to produce high-efficiency engines of capacity under 100 horsepower and related parts, started operation in September 2010, but  reported an accumulated loss of $23 million two years later. This loss is equivalent to 82 per cent of shareholders’ equity, according to newspaper

In May 2016, Toshiba received an order to supply steam turbines and generators (STGs) for the extension of Vinh Tan 4 coal-fired thermal power plant by state-owned power authority Vietnam Electricity (EVN). It will start delivery in January 2018, with commissioning scheduled for 2019.

In 2014, Toshiba announced setting up a $1 billion investment fund in Southeast Asia over the next five years. Given the big losses and the distrust of creditors, there is worry about what would happen to Toshiba’s Vietnam operations and plans.