Toshiba Confirms Exit From Laptop Sector

Toshiba has made an historic decision after it announced that it had sold its final stake in PC maker Dynabook to Sharp.

The deal is noteworthy considering Toshiba’s legacy in the PC arena. In 1985 Toshiba launched the world’s first mass-market laptop, and at its peak in 2011 it sold 17.7 million PCs.

But the downturn in the PC sector, plus a financial scandal at the firm, did not help Toshiba’s fortunes, and in 2017 it only sold 1.9 million units.

Laptop exit

That couldn’t continue, and in June 2018 it was revealed that fellow Japanese multinational corporation Sharp was to purchase 80.1 percent of Toshiba’s personal computer business (Toshiba Client Solutions) for a very modest $36m.

Toshiba Client Solutions was subsequently renamed to Dynabook.

Sharp had exited the PC market back in 2011, and the small purchase price for the majority stake in the Toshiba PC division and its highly-rated laptop range, laid bare the ongoing difficulties within the PC industry at the time.

Sharp itself has not had an untroubled couple of years, and it was purchased by Taiwan-based Foxconn Group (formerly Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd) back in 2016.

And now Toshiba has announced that it has sold the final 19.9 percent of the outstanding shares in Dynabook to Sharp.

“On June 30, 2020, under the terms of the share purchase agreement, Sharp exercised a call option for the remaining outstanding shares of Dynabook held by Toshiba, and Toshiba has completed procedures for their transfer,” said the firm.

Legacy player

This means that after 35 years of making a respected range of laptops, Toshiba is exiting the market altogether.

Toshiba had made what some considered was the world’s first mass-market laptop, the T1100, back in 1985.

T1100 – Image may be subject to copyright

It weighed 4kgs, and did not contain a hard disk drive (HDD). Instead it ran MD-DOS off 3.5 inch floppy disks, and sold for close to $1,900.

Troubled conglomerate

And it is fair to say that Toshiba has had a torrid time of late.

In early 2015 it was discovered that Toshiba had overstated its operating profits by a total of 151.8 billion yen (£780m).

Even worse, the CEO of Toshiba was found to have been aware of a profit inflation scheme going back to 2008.

The CEO and a number of other executives resigned as a result.

In 2016 Toshiba stopped selling consumer laptops for the European market, and instead concentrated on enterprise hardware.

In 2017 it sold a large part of its NAND chip unit to a consortium led by Bain Capital LP, in a deal worth $18bn (£13.5bn).

It has also sold its television business to Hisense and its white-goods business to China’s Midea Group.

Toshiba has also previously struggled to contend with a possible delisting from the Tokyo Stock Exchange as well as a bitter legal tussle with Western Digital, as it sought funds to cover billions of dollars in liabilities arising from now-bankrupt US nuclear unit Westinghouse.

In 2019, it closed down its nuclear business NuGen in the UK after failing to find a buyer for it.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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