Olympus Exits the Camera Business

Olympus Exits the Camera Business

Japanese manufacturer Olympus Corporation has announced that it intends to exit the camera business through the sale of its Imaging business.

Despite the efforts of improving their cost structure and focusing on high-profit cameras and lenses, the company stated they have "recorded operating losses for three consecutive fiscal years up to the term ended in March 2020".

The company says "Olympus has implemented measures to cope with the extremely severe digital camera market, due to, amongst others, rapid market shrink caused by the evolution of smartphones".

But does what this all mean for future Olympus cameras and those who already own an Olympus model? The company will be selling its imaging division to an investment fund.

Olympus's imaging business dates back to 1936, with the production of the Semi-Olympus I. In the 50s, the company found success with the iconic Pen line.

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The proposed buyer is Japan Industrial Partners, an 18-year-old private equity company based in Tokyo best known for purchasing the Vaio computer business from Sony in early 2014, following similar profitability struggles. Olympus and JIP will sign a definitive agreement by the end of September with the entire deal closing near the end of this year. The first of these has been answered pretty emphatically in the memorandum for the deal, with Olympus pointing towards the rise of smartphones as the main reason. During the ongoing discussions, Olympus Imaging will operate with business as usual: "we will continue to work on innovative initiatives for our customers and we will launch new products as planned".

"JIP has strong track records in supporting strategic carve-outs that realize growth potential and encourage autonomous growth", Olympus said in its statement. The memorandum states that the company plans to streamline the business and will continue to develop products using Olympus imaging brands such as OM-D and Zuiko. The parties will proceed with the actions and procedures for Transactions in full compliance with applicable laws including consultation obligations and other requirements under local employment laws.

Exactly what will happen for the future of Olympus as the "NewCo" company transitions the Olympus Imaging business over to JIP remains to be seen.

This transition could be especially important for anyone with a Micro Four Thirds camera, which is a camera format that has been jointly managed by Olympus and Panasonic since its creation back in 2008.

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