By Maki Shiraki and Mari Saito
TOKYO (Reuters) - Shareholders of Japan's embattled Renesas Electronics Corp are close to approving a government-led bailout, sources familiar with the talks said, sending the firm's shares 17 percent higher on relief that the $2.4 billion rescue was being finalized.
The deal is set to keep the world's biggest maker of microcontroller chips afloat for the next few years, but analysts say that despite job cuts and planned plant closures, Renesas still faces many challenges including the restructuring of its loss-making system chip division.
The state-backed Innovation Network Corp will spend 180 billion yen ($2.2 billion) to take a two-thirds stake in Renesas, which has been hit by fierce overseas competition, production cuts by clients and fragile finances that have prevented it from upgrading infrastructure.
As part of the bailout, eight manufacturers including key clients such as Toyota Motor Corp and Nissan Motor Co Ltd will provide another combined 20 billion yen.
Shareholder approval of the deal, while expected, had been delayed for several weeks and an announcement is now likely in early December, said the sources, who declined to be identified as the matter is not public.
A Renesas spokesman said nothing had been decided.
Investors jumped to cover short positions in the stock, said Makoto Kikuchi, chief executive officer of Myojo Asset Management, noting that unlike some other troubled Japanese electronics firm such as Sharp Corp, the company's expertise in chips for cars meant it was worth investing in.
The bailout was put together to counter an earlier bid by U.S. private equity firm KKR & Co LP amid worries that the firm's technology would fall into foreign hands.
"As soon as stock investors see signs that the company is working hard to return to profit, they will be prepared to invest long-term," Kikuchi said.
Shares in Renesas closed 16.6 percent higher at a two-month high but are still down 42 percent since the beginning of April, the start of Japan's fiscal year.
Recent history has been brutal for Japan's chipmakers and Renesas, formed from the struggling chip divisions of its major shareholding companies Hitachi Ltd, Mitsubishi Electric Corp and NEC Corp, will be keen not to repeat the mistakes of now-bankrupt fellow chipmaker Elpida Memory Inc.
Elpida, formed from the merger of several big companies' DRAM chip making operations, succumbed to slumping prices and relentless competition from South Korean rivals and is being acquired by Micron Technology Inc of the United States.
Japan's tech sector has also seen the creation of Japan Display Inc, a firm formed from the divisions of three TV makers which make small liquid crystal displays and which the Innovation Network Corp has also invested in.
The bailout comes on top of 161 billion yen in syndicated loans from four Japanese banks in September, and before that a separate 97 billion yen Renesas previously received from the banks and its major shareholders.
In return, the company has slashed more than 7,000 jobs this year and pledged to sell or close eight out of its 18 domestic plants within three years.
Renesas, which competes with Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and U.S.-based Freescale Semiconductor Inc, has predicted a net loss of 150 billion yen for the year to March.
The Nikkei newspaper also said on Monday that Renesas will receive an additional 1 billion yen each in support from Hitachi and NEC. Sources said the two firms will not take in Renesas employees, while Mitsubishi Electric is considering taking in some workers from the chipmaker. ($1 = 82.3700 Japanese yen)
(Additional reporting by Ayai Tomisawa; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)