Tokyo: Toshiba Corp. shares dropped to their lowest since May after a report that the loss in its nuclear business may exceed the 500 billion yen ($4.4 billion) maximum the company had flagged to lenders.

The company asked Development Bank of Japan Inc. for financial support and is seeking help from other lenders, the Nikkei newspaper cited people familiar with the matter as saying. Kyodo news agency reported the loss may reach 700 billion yen. Toshiba, which has put a write-down of its nuclear equipment business in the billions of dollars, fell 16% to 242 yen in Tokyo at the close on Thursday. The company said in a statement that it’s still calculating the costs.

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Thursday’s decline puts Toshiba at almost half of its value since mid-December, when it surprised investors with a disclosure of a write-down in the billions of dollars. The unexpected move follows a profit-padding scandal in 2015 that led to record losses and prompted the company to cut staff and sell off businesses. Toshiba said earlier it’s considering spinning off its well-performing flash-memory unit to raise funds.

“There is a bigger sense of crisis than you would have imagined even a week ago," said Damian Thong, an analyst at Macquarie Group Ltd. “It seems like they are scrambling for a solution, something to announce to shareholders on the day of their next financial update."

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The company is also considering a plan to raise funds by selling assets other than the chip operations to raise 300 billion yen, broadcaster NHK reported earlier Thursday, citing unidentified individuals. Toshiba responded in a statement, saying it is still considering its options.

Flash memory used in smartphones and solid state disk drives is one of the few bright spots in Toshiba’s sprawling business portfolio that also includes personal computers, TVs, railway systems and elevators. Memory chips generated 50.1 billion yen in profit in the fiscal first half, accounting for more than half of total operating profit in the period. The company has shared investments in the business with Western Digital Corp.

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Toshiba has already gone through a round of asset sales in the wake of the accounting scandal. It sold its image-sensor chip operations to Sony Corp. and offloaded stakes it held in Finnish escalator maker Kone Oyj and Japanese medical equipment manufacturer Topcon Corp.

“They still have the elevator business and industrial stuff, but some of these businesses are tricky to sell," Thong said. “The chip business is clearly the most valuable business, but if you do away with it, it removes the reason for owning Toshiba itself." Bloomberg

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