Westinghouse Files For Bankruptcy Protection

Mar 29, 2017

Japan's embattled Toshiba Corp. said Wednesday that its U.S. nuclear unit Westinghouse Electric Co. has filed for bankruptcy protection, marking a key step in its struggles to stop the flow of massive red ink.

Toshiba said in a statement that it filed the Chapter 11 petition in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of New York. The move had been largely expected.

Toshiba has said it's expecting a loss of 500 billion yen ($4.3 billion) for April-December of last year, including a 712.5 billion yen ($6.2 billion) hit from its embattled nuclear business, which is based in Cranberry, Pennsylvania. It said Wednesday that it was working out revised numbers, and warned that the loss for the fiscal year may grow to 1 trillion yen ($9 billion).

Toshiba acquired Westinghouse in 2006 with much fanfare, making nuclear power an important part of its business strategy.

After the March 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, costs of the business have ballooned because of growing safety concerns and regulations, and a souring of sentiment toward nuclear power in some countries, such as Germany.

Toshiba has been eager to get Westinghouse off its books to improve its plight, and it said it would do just that from this fiscal year. It has said earlier it wants to sell Westinghouse. Toshiba said Westinghouse had racked up debt of $9.8 billion.

The company has secured $800 million in special financing to meet current financial obligations including payroll.

Point Park University business professor Elaine Luther said she is worried Toshiba will sell the asset to another multinational that will not be committed to the Cranberry operation.

“I’m not sure what the impact is on Cranberry, but I’m more worried about the impact on whole United States economy if we don’t have a U.S.-based business that’s working on nuclear energy,” she said.

Toshiba President Satoshi Tsunakawa said the move was aimed at "shutting out risks from the overseas nuclear business."

"We want to make this our first step toward recovering our solid business," he told reporters after the announcement.

Toshiba reiterated its view that at the root of the problem was the acquisition of U.S. nuclear construction company CB&I Stone and Webster. It declined comment on possible future partners in the rehabilitation of Westinghouse.

In a news release Westinghouse said it was committed to the projects in Georgia and South Carolina as well as its work in China.

Toshiba’s reputation has also been tarnished in recent years by a scandal over the doctoring of accounting books to meet unrealistic profit targets.

Satoshi Ogasawara, who has written a book about Toshiba's systematically falsifying financial results, says executives knew of the problems for years but kept procrastinating, hoping against hope that things would get better and they would be able to avoid blame. But things just got worse.

"Buying Westinghouse was the beginning of the end," he said. "But even before that, there was a dubious corporate culture."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.