Toshiba to start auction for its Swiss smart meter unit Landis+Gyr

Debt-laden Toshiba Corp will start taking bids for its Swiss smart meter unit Landis+Gyr, as early as June, Kyodo news agency today reported without citing sources.

Hitachi Ltd and other Japanese firms are seen as possible bidders for the unit, the report said.

Last month, Toshiba was reported to have hired Swiss lender UBS to explore a potential sale or initial public offering of Landis+Gyr.

UBS may approach private equity firms like CVC, Cinven, Advent, KKR, Blackstone, Onex and Clayton, Dubilier & Rice to bid for Landis+Gyr.

Toshiba initially acquired the whole of Landis+Gyr in 2011 for $2.3 billion and a month later sold a 40-per cent stake to state-backed Innovation Network Corporation of Japan for $680 million.

Founded in 1896 as Elektrotechnisches Institut Theiler & Co in Zug, Switzerland by Richard Theiler, the company changed its name to Landis & Gyr in 1905.

In 1998 Landis & Gyr was acquired by Siemens, and then again spun out in 2002 with a new name: Landis+Gyr.

Landis+Gyr produces smart meters, smart grid equipment and related technology and services, and its around 8,000 customers in more than 30 countries are mainly energy, gas and electricity utility companies.

It expects sales of around $1.64 billion in this fiscal year.

Toshiba needs to raise funds by the end of March to offset its $6.3-billion writedown on Westinghouse, its US nuclear power business.

If Toshiba's deficits were to exceed its assets as of 31 March, the end of its business year, the company's shares would be moved from the TSE's First Section to the Second Section.

In the event of Toshiba's failure to rectify the situation within a year of that date, its shares would be delisted.

It is also seeking to raise at least as much as $20 billion from the sale of a majority or entire stake in its flash memory chip business.