Sony has agreed to pour $645 million into Olympus in exchange for 11.5 percent of the embattled company, becoming the single largest shareholder. While the companies announced that they are considering cooperating in the digital camera industry, the main motivation for Sony wasn’t photographic imaging but body imaging. Olympus is one of the major players in the medical endoscope market, holding about 70% of sales, and Sony’s investment allows it to dip its toes into this lucrative industry.
Sony and Olympus are planning to set up a new joint company for endoscopes by the end of the year with 51% and 49% ownership, respectively.
This deal comes just a few days after Olympus and a number of its former executives pleaded guilty in court to participating in one of the largest financial scandals in Japan’s history, covering up more than $1 billion in losses for over a decade.
Fujifilm was another company that was competing with Sony for the opportunity to partner with Olympus or acquire it outright.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Sony and Olympus do in fact partner up to take on the likes of Canon and Nikon. Sony has been making bold moves in the camera industry lately with pellicle mirror cameras and a strong line of mirrorless cameras, while Olympus has been quite focused on being one of the dominant mirrorless camera players as well. Maybe in the future we’ll be reporting on Sonympus PENEX cameras…
Update: The official press release has this interesting tidbit:
In image business, on a short-term basis, specific discussions shall be carried out regarding the Company’s provision of products such as camera lenses and lens barrels to Sony’s Digital Imagine (DI) business and receipt from Sony of image sensor products centering on compact digital cameras.
Sounds like Olympus will be providing Sony with glass, while Sony will be providing Olympus with sensors. Interesting.