Tim Culpan is a technology columnist for Bloomberg Gadfly. He previously covered technology for Bloomberg News.

Well. what a lot of wasted time and effort.

After naming Bain Capital as the preferred bidder for its chip unit in June, Toshiba Corp. got caught up in a complicated web of legal disputes and rival contenders. Only to land back with its original suitor three months later.

Toshiba has signed a memorandum of understanding with Bain and aims to reach a definitive agreement by the end of the month, Bloomberg reported Wednesday, citing a company statement.

Skeptics will have their ears tuned for the dulcet sounds of the proverbial fat lady, while Foxconn Technology Group may have more forceful words to press its case.

Wishing and Praying
Toshiba investors have pushed up the stock in the hope of a bidding war for its chip unit
Source: Bloomberg

The situation may seem familiar.

Bain lost its most-favored status last month when Toshiba announced that Western Digital Corp. and Foxconn (aka Hon Hai Precision Industry Co.) were back in the running. But now Bain has come forward with a new proposal, seemingly in the past two weeks, according to the Japanese company.

Toshiba hereby announces that it has accordingly entered into a non-binding MOU with Bain. The signing of this MOU does not eliminate the possibility of negotiations with other consortia.

Yup. Take note of that escape clause. Toshiba may finally be undertaking what it should have done six months ago: conducting a bidding war. Instead, the board and various government entities let politics, nationalism and expedience get in the way of maximizing shareholder value.

Bain is reported to have offered around 2.1 trillion yen ($19.1 billion), with Foxconn going on record to say it was also ready to pay that amount.

Unfortunately, it looks like Western Digital has dropped out, which makes the auction process less exciting, although its consortium partner KKR & Co. is reported to still be interested at around 2 trillion yen.

As Toshiba hunkers down for one more attempt at a sale, investors should keep an eye out for the bottom-line number. Should the final deal come in at around 2.1 trillion yen, the company will have failed (again), but if it can extract a much higher price, then Toshiba's board might finally be seen to be doing its job.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

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Tim Culpan in Taipei at

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Matthew Brooker at