TOKYO – Nikkei reported Wednesday (Aug.29) that Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., the New York-based private equity firm, is in talks with Renesas Electronics.
KKR plans to take over management of the ailing Japanese chip maker by spending 100 billion yen ($1.27 billion) through a private placement of new shares, Nikkei reported.
If true, the bid is KKR second crack at rescuing a chip company. KKR, Bain Capital Partners and three other private equity firms acquired NXP Semiconductors in a $9.4 billion leveraged buyout in 2006. NXP went public in August, 2010.
According to Nikkei, KKR presented its proposal to Renesas' top three shareholders -- NEC Corp, Hitachi Ltd. and Mitsubishi Electric Corp.-- as well as Renesas’ main banks. The Japanese newspaper anticipated a formal agreement as early as next month.
Renesas has a market capitalization of about 95 billion yen. KKR’s plan is to lead the chipmaker's turnaround efforts by taking over a majority stake by year's end. If that happens, KKR may replace Renesas’ current management.
At stake is the credibility of Renesas’ restructuring plan. Lingering concerns in the electronics industry are focused on the Japanese company’s willingness to make deep enough cuts, act on the plan quickly, and apply sufficient capital to pull everything off.
While a number of different restructuring plans have been bandied in the Japanese media over the last few months, Renesas is yet to publicly announce a detailed plan beyond seeking slightly more than 5,000 volunteers for early retirement. It’s also working to close some fabs.
Nikkei reported that Hitachi, NEC and Mitsubishi, the three shareholders of Renesas, have already agreed to provide a total of 50 billion yen through loans and other measures. Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ and three other lenders intend to provide 50 billion yen through a credit line, it said.
$1.27 billion is not for all of the outstanding stock in Renesas.
It appears that exisiting shareholders would retain some level of ownership.
However, it appears that KKR wants to have a majority ownership so that it can take control of the company.
More detail is required but KKR may have learned a lesson from the fact that it -- along with others -- paid 6.4 billion euros (about $8 billion) for an 80 percent stake in NXP and then had to write the value down to 10 percent of what they paid.
Question is, what options does Renesas have? Money they have received in the recent bailout is not going to last long. Most of the money will be used in retrenching people. Few months down the line, Renesas will be back asking for money. If something unforeseen strikes like earthquake or global recession, they will be in a deep rut. Banks are afraid of extending loans because they are not sure whether they will ever recover their loans. Parent companies are also not doing too well that they can keep bailing out Renesas forever. In fact, NEC itself is in need of a bailout. It is very clear that Renesas needs to implement some tough measures to survive and become a viable company in a long run. The present Japanese management is too weak for this. They need someone like Mr. Ghosn of Nissan who can see through things and do what is good for the company. In that sense, I am rather hopeful that KKR will be able to bring right set of people in the system and do the needful.
Doesn't history show that this is not a very good idea for anyone involved? NXP and Freescale have been doing well in recent years, but the companies are still saddled with a crushing amount of debt from the leveraged buyouts.
Join our online Radio Show on Friday 11th July starting at 2:00pm Eastern, when EETimes editor of all things fun and interesting, Max Maxfield, and embedded systems expert, Jack Ganssle, will debate as to just what is, and is not, and embedded system.