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Nikkei: Toshiba To Join Bidding For Elpida

Japanese electronics giant Toshiba Corp. (TOSBF.PK) has decided to join the bidding for bankrupt chipmaker Elpida Memory Inc. (ELPDF.PK), the Nikkei business daily reported Thursday.

The move sets Toshiba in a bidding war against U.S. chipmaker Micron Technology Inc. (MU), which is seen as the front-runner to acquire Elpida.

Elpida was formed through the merger of NEC Corp. and Hitachi Ltd.'s memory businesses in 1991. The only remaining DRAM vendor in Japan, Elpida filed for bankruptcy last month after failing to secure investments, or a second round of government funding.

Elpida's results were hurt by falling DRAM prices and a stronger yen. The company filed for bankruptcy protection at the Tokyo District Court in February, saying its debts amounted to about 448 billion yen, or $5.53 billion. The company, whose customers include Apple Inc. (AAPL), was delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange on March 28.

However, Elpida is now said to be soliciting bids from potential investors to pull itself out of bankruptcy.

Toshiba, the world's second-largest maker of flash memory, reportedly believes that the addition of Elpida's cell-phone-use dynamic random access memory or DRAMs to its own offerings is crucial to surviving in the chip industry.

Although Toshiba and Boise, Idaho-based Micron Technology are likely to become the leading contenders for Elpida, other companies like Intel Corp. (INTC) may reportedly join the bidding race later.

The Nikkei reported that following two rounds of bidding by the end of April, a single sponsor for Elpida will be selected in early May. That company will acquire Elpida if a deal is reached.

Toshiba could reportedly seek financial assistance from the government-backed Enterprise Turnaround Initiative Corp of Japan.

The Japanese government had reportedly urged Toshiba to invest in Elpida prior to that company's bankruptcy filing, but Toshiba declined. Toshiba had quit fabricating DRAMs in 2002, hurt by huge losses.

TOSBF.PK closed Thursday's trading at $4.44, down $0.06 or 1.29 percent on a volume of 11,066 shares.

by RTT Staff Writer

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