Reuters is reporting that US-based investment firm TPG Capital has expressed interest in pouring $1 billion into Olympus in a joint deal, and has notified other possible suitors including Sony, Canon, Fujifilm, and Panasonic.
Nearly all of Olympus’ profits are generated from its dominant 70 percent share of the global market for flexible diagnostic endoscopes. The steady cash flow from that business has allowed it to prop up its digital camera business, which is on course to lose money for a second straight year.
TPG would consider taking over the other less desirable parts of the firm to facilitate a deal. This could include the digital camera operation, which is in need of a major overhaul, including job cuts, the person said.
It’s interesting that the camera division is one of the “less desirable parts” of Olympus, since that’s what most consumers know the company for.
Olympus recently filed a patent in Japan for a vari-angle LCD screen. While that’s not exactly groundbreaking, the illustrations in the patent appears to show some kind of medium format digital camera. What’s more, it looks nearly identical to the Samsung digital medium format prototypes that emerged earlier this year. Read more…
Black-suited investigators raided and searched 20 different sites today over Olympus’ ongoing accounting scandal. Among the sites searched were the company’s headquarters, the office buildings of subsidiary companies, and the homes of executives involved in the fraud. The company is also looking to raise cash by issuing $1.3 billion in new shares. Sony, Fujifilm, Panasonic, Samsung, and Hoya have been named as companies who are potentially interested in snapping up a piece of Olympus.
Olympus has something big up its sleeve. In an interview with Impressjapan, manager Mr. Ogawa revealed that the company is working on a new mirrorless camera that features an “epoch-making” viewfinder — presumably one that’s even more advanced than the hybrid viewfinder found on the Fujifilm X100. The upcoming viewfinder sounds like it’ll also be some kind of fusion between electronic and optical. There’s not much that’s know about the technology at the moment, but we should be hearing more about it very soon.
Olympus’ stock price has been recovering quite nicely after an internal probe found no evidence of yakuza involvement (though they did slam upper management as “rotten”). However, rumors of possible takeover attempts persist. An article published by Bloomberg today reported that Fujifilm may be in the hunt for the beleaguered company:
Fujifilm, which makes equipment for medical scans, has been reported as a possible bidder for Japanese camera maker Olympus Corp. Yamamoto, who also is a board member at Fujifilm, declined to comment on a possible buyout of Olympus today.
Fujifilm Chief Executive Officer Shigetaka Komori said last month it was too early to discuss Olympus issues while the third-party panel was still probing the fraud at the camera maker.
Fujifilm has received a lot of praise lately for its sleek X series cameras, and could take another big step towards becoming a digital camera juggernaut if it somehow landed Olympus.
Olympus and Panasonic might be cofounders of the Micro Four Thirds movement, but the companies appear to be taking different approaches toward 3D photography. While Panasonic offers a special 3D lens that contains two lenses, a newly discovered Olympus patent shows an even more novel approach: adding a second lens to a camera via its hot shoe. Simply stick the lens on and turn your camera sideways to transform it into a stereoscopic 3D camera!
It looks like Olympus ex-CEO Michael Woodford will be getting his wish after all as the Olympus scandal continues to unfold. A day after an independent panel issued a report that slammed the company’s top management as being rotten (though at the same time finding no links to organized crime), the entire board of directors has indicated that it will step down. Perhaps confident that the company will soon be back on the right track, investors have pushed the stock price back up to over ¥1,100 — up from its 52 week low of ¥424 back in early November.
Olympus has been in the photography game since introducing its first camera back in 1936, but its future as a major player is at risk now that the company is caught up in one of the largest corporate scandals Japan has ever seen. According to Reuters, the company is reviewing its business structure, and there is speculation that it may be forced to sell off assets to survive.
While the company may be best known for its cameras, its actually built around a $2.6 billion endoscope business, of which it virtually holds a worldwide monopoly. Its camera business, on the other hand, is operating at a loss. According to investment bankers, other camera manufacturers are following the Olympus saga closely, but will likely hold off on making a move until things clear up more.
Major camera makers including Olympus, Samsung and Sony have all filed patents in recent days for liquid lens technology. Unlike traditional glass lenses, liquid lenses don’t have any moving parts. Instead, liquid is used to focus light, and different voltages are applied to the liquid to change the shape of the liquid, thereby controlling the image. In the video above, techie Ben Krasnow introduces the technology, and then shows off a device he made by ripping a liquid lens out of a USB webcam.
Here are some developments in the ongoing Olympus scandal: investors and a former director are currently calling for fired CEO Michael Woodford to be brought back to clean house and right the ship. At the same time, The New York Times is reporting that Japanese investigators are still trying to understand a $4.9 billion hole in Olympus’ financial records, and believe that over half of that amount were paid to organized crime groups in Japan. More specifically, the company is accused of being linked to Yamaguchi-Gumi, the country’s most infamous yazuka organization.