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June 27, 2017

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Home » Business » Auto

Embattled airbag maker Takata files for bankruptcy, seeks buyout

JAPAN’S Takata Corp, the firm at the center of the auto industry’s biggest-ever product recall, filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States and Japan and said it had agreed to be largely bought for US$1.6 billion by Chinese-owned US-based Key Safety Systems.

In the biggest bankruptcy of a Japanese manufacturer, Takata faces tens of billions of dollars in costs and liabilities resulting from almost a decade of recalls and lawsuits. Its airbag inflators have been linked to at least 16 deaths and 180 injuries around the world because they can rupture and send metal fragments flying.

TK Holdings, its US operations, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Delaware on Sunday with liabilities of US$10 billion to US$50 billion, while the Japanese parent filed for protection with the Tokyo District Court early yesterday.

Scott Caudill, chief operating officer of TK Holdings, said in a court affidavit that the company “faces insurmountable claims” relating to the recalls and owes billions of dollars to automakers.

He disclosed that Takata has recalled, or expects to recall, by 2019 about 125 million vehicles worldwide, including more than 60 million in the US.

Takata’s total liabilities stand at 1.7 trillion yen (US$15 billion), Tokyo Shoko Research Ltd estimated.

Final liabilities would depend on the outcome of discussions with carmaker customers who have borne the bulk of the replacement costs, a lawyer for the company said.

The filings open the door to the financial rescue by Key Safety Systems, a Michigan-based parts supplier owned by China’s Ningbo Joyson Electronic Corp.

In a deal that took 16 months to hammer out, KSS agreed to take over Takata’s viable operations, while the remaining operations will be reorganized to continue churning out millions of replacement airbag inflators, the two firms said.

The US company would keep “substantially all” of Takata’s 60,000 employees in 23 countries and maintain its factories in Japan. The agreement is meant to allow Takata to continue operating without interruptions and with minimal disruptions to its supply chain.

“We believe taking these actions in Japan and the US is the best way to address the ongoing costs and liabilities of the airbag inflator issues with certainty and in an organized manner,” Takata CEO Shigehisa Takada said in a statement.

The remainder of Takata assets will be reorganized to produce replacement inflators, but it is not clear how long they will operate. Takata said it does not expect to continue operating a plant in Germany after the restructuring is completed.

CEO Takada said he and top management would resign “when the timing of the restructuring is set.” His family, which still has control of the 84-year-old company, likely would cease to be shareholders.

Takata in February pleaded in a US federal court to a felony charge as part of a US$1 billion settlement that included compensation funds for automakers and victims of its faulty airbag inflators. The company expects to honor the terms of the agreement and pay the US$850 million due for automaker compensation. Three former senior Takata executives were charged in January in a US court with falsifying test results but have not appeared in court.

Takata warned in bankruptcy documents that if it does not restructure by March and complete payments owed under the deal, the Justice Department could withdraw the plea agreement and seek higher penalties.

Jason Luo, president and CEO of KSS, said the “underlying strength” of Takata’s business had not diminished despite the recalls, citing its skilled employee base, geographic reach and other safety products such as seat belts.

The companies expect to seal agreements for the sale soon and complete the twin bankruptcy processes in the first quarter of 2018.


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