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TOKYO (Reuters) – Toshiba Corp (T:) plans to gradually unwind its 40% stake in Kioxia Holdings after the world’s second-largest flash memory chip firm lists its shares in an IPO later this year, two sources familiar with the matter said on Saturday.

The Japanese industrial conglomerate is considering distributing about half or more of after-tax proceeds from the sale back to shareholders, said the sources, who declined to be identified because the issue is private.

Toshiba said nothing has been decided over its stake in Kioxia, the former flash memory chips unit it sold to a consortium led by U.S. private equity firm Bain Capital for $18 billion in 2018. Toshiba bought its stake in the former unit as part of the same deal.

The initial public offering of Kioxia could be Japan’s biggest listing this year, sources have said.

Domestic media reports have estimated market valuation to reach $32 billion in an IPO as early as October, although the coronavirus outbreak has created uncertainty over the timing and valuation of the IPO.

The planned sale of the Kioxia stake is in line of Toshiba’s latest strategy to focus on social infrastructure businesses that are resilient to a global economic slump, one of the sources said.

Many overseas fund investors are urging Toshiba to sell the stake on the grounds that flash memory chips, used in smartphones and data storage servers, are a highly volatile business that could sway Toshiba’s earnings, the source said.

Kioxia reported an operating loss of 173.1 billion yen for the year ended in March.

Toshiba has been facing pressure from activist funds agitating for changes since the company sold 600 billion yen ($5.6 billion) of stock to dozens of foreign hedge funds during a crisis stemming from the bankruptcy of the U.S. nuclear power unit in 2017. Nearly 70% of its shareholders are non-Japanese.

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2020-06-19