Public-private investment fund Japan Investment Corp. is considering acquiring Toshiba Corp., sources familiar with the matter said Wednesday, the first domestic entity known to express an interest in taking over the Japanese conglomerate.
The move comes after reports earlier this year that U.S. investment fund Bain Capital was mulling a possible acquisition of Toshiba. The Japanese firm has been looking for potential sponsors to take it private amid uncertainties over its future after reform plans to split fell through.
As Toshiba's nuclear power and defense sectors -- considered crucial for Japan's economic security -- fall under "core industries," according to the country's foreign exchange law, any tender offer will need to be screened by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, posing a challenge for overseas companies.
A household name in Japan with a nearly 150-year history, Toshiba has been facing pressure from shareholders frustrated by its lackluster efforts to boost growth and corporate value. Delisting could eliminate such pressure.
The conglomerate in April made an unprecedented move by saying it was welcoming suggestions on business strategies, including potential acquisitions.
The deadline for the first round is slated for May 30, with the applications to be narrowed down in a shareholders' meeting in late June. As of May 13, 10 companies had expressed interest, according to Toshiba.
In March, Toshiba failed to gain majority support from its shareholders for a proposal to split into two listed companies as the firm continues to struggle to improve its image following a string of scandals over the past several years.
Japan Investment Corp. declined to comment, while Toshiba said it has not publicly announced any individual applications.
The country's largest public-private investment fund was launched in September 2018 as Japan Investment Corp. after its predecessor, the Innovation Network Corp. of Japan, was criticized for focusing on rescuing struggling companies instead of investing to help ventures grow. It falls under the jurisdiction of the industry ministry.