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SK Hynix board approves plan to invest in Toshiba chip unit

By Joyce Lee and Hyunjoo Jin

By Joyce Lee and Hyunjoo Jin

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's SK Hynix Inc said on Wednesday its board had approved its participation in a Bain Capital-led consortium that plans to purchase Toshiba Corp's memory chip unit for 2 trillion yen ($17.7 billion).

SK Hynix said in a statement it will invest 395 billion yen, part of which will be in convertible bonds that could allow it to take an equity stake of up to 15 percent in the future.

Toshiba's board agreed last week to sell the unit, the world's second biggest producer of NAND chips, to the Bain group. However, the signing has been delayed because consortium member Apple Inc demanded new terms on chip supply in return for funding, sources familiar with the matter have said.

A Toshiba spokesman said the firm was aiming for a signed deal as soon as possible.

One person with knowledge of the deal, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter, said that he did not expect the deal to be signed on Wednesday.

The Bain-led consortium will hold 49.9 percent of the voting rights in the chip unit, while Toshiba will hold 40.2 percent and Japan's Hoya Corp, a medical technology firm that also makes parts for chip devices, will own 9.9 percent, the statement said.

Consortium members Apple, Dell Inc, Seagate Technology Plc and Kingston Technology, will invest in the form of non-convertible preferred shares, it said.

Pressure from the Japanese government, changing alliances among suitors and a slew of revised bids has drawn out the auction over nine months - heightening the risk that the deal may not close before the end of Japan's financial year in March as regulatory reviews usually take at least six months.

If the deal does not close before then, Toshiba - hurt by liabilities at is now bankrupt nuclear unit Westinghouse - is likely to end a second consecutive year in negative net worth, putting pressure on the Tokyo Stock Exchange to strip it of its listing status.

The sale also faces legal challenges from Western Digital, Toshiba's chip venture partner and rejected suitor, which is seeking an injunction to block any deal that does not have its consent.

Western Digital, one of world's leading makers of hard disk drives, paid some $16 billion last year to acquire SanDisk, Toshiba's chip joint venture partner since 2000. It sees chips as a key pillar of growth and is desperate to keep the business out of the hands of rival chipmakers.

Toshiba has said the sale would improve its shareholders' equity by 740 billion yen ($6.6 billion).

(Reporting by Joyce Lee and Hyunjoo Jin; Additional reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)