WASHINGTON Japan's industry minister said on Thursday he had agreed with the U.S. energy and commerce secretaries to share information on developments involving Toshiba Corp and its troubled U.S. nuclear affiliate, Westinghouse Electric Co, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported.
Toshiba said on Tuesday it was "actively considering" a sale and other strategic options for Westinghouse, as it expanded a probe into problems there that caused the parent group to miss an earnings deadline for a second time.
The Japanese conglomerate said it believed it could findbuyers for a majority stake in Westinghouse but sidestepped questions about a potential Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing for the unit, saying only there were various options. Sources have said bankruptcy lawyers have been hired as an exploratory step.
Kyodo said Hiroshige Seko, Japan's minister of economy, trade and industry, told Japanese reporters after talks in Washington with U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross that he had agreed with them to share information about developments in the case.
According to Kyodo, Seko said the U.S. Cabinet members had said they considered the fiscal stability of Toshiba extremely important.
Kyodo said Seko had a separate meeting on Thursday with Gary Cohn, director of the White House National Economic Council.
A White House official said, "The Westinghouse issue did come up in the meetings and both sides are monitoring it closely."
The U.S. Commerce and Energy departments and the National Economic Council did not respond to requests for comment.
Seko was on a one-day visit to prepare for a high-level bilateral economic dialogue due to start next month led by Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.
A sale of Westinghouse would represent the latest in a series of steps Toshiba is taking to grapple with losses stemming from the nuclear unit's ill-fated purchase of a U.S. nuclear power plant construction company in 2015.
Toshiba has already put up most or even all of its memory chip business for sale to cope with an upcoming $6.3 billion writedown for the nuclear business and to create a buffer for potential losses down the road.
Westinghouse has been plagued by huge cost overruns at two U.S. projects in Georgia and South Carolina, and liabilities related to those projects mean it is unlikely to be an easy asset to sell, despite attractive technology.
Westinghouse has been negotiating a multi-billion-dollar deal to build six nuclear reactors in India after a 2008 civil nuclear accord, a deal supposed to showcase a new era of economic and strategic cooperation between the United States and India.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner and Emily Stephenson; Editing by Leslie Adler)