Japanese manufacturer Olympus Corporation has announced that it intends to exit the camera business through the sale of its Imaging business.
Olympus has existed as a company since 1919, but its Imaging business started in 1936 with the sale of a camera using the Zuiko photographic lens. The company’s innovative Pen camera series then launched in 1959, and the Olympus brand went on to become a household name associated with digital cameras. However, smartphones happened and Olympus hasn’t been immune to the squeeze that placed on camera manufacturers. Now it’s admitting defeat and moving on.
As The Verge reports, Olympus today posted a signed memorandum of understanding that details an intent to sell its Imaging business to the investment fund Japan Industrial Partners (JIP) where it will form a new company. JIP will likely be best known to people for acquiring the VAIO business/brand from Sony back in 2014. New VAIO laptops have been launched in recent years, and it looks as though JIP intends to do the same with Olympus cameras, although we don’t know under what name yet.
If all goes to plan, a legally-binding agreement between the two companies will be signed by Sept. 30. The decision to sell is explained in the memorandum, with the company explaining, “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; Olympus has improved the cost structure by restructuring the manufacturing bases and focusing on high-value-added interchangeablelenses, aiming to rectify the earning structure to those that may continue generating profit even as sales dwindles. Despite all such efforts, Olympus’s Imaging business recorded operating losses for 3 consecutive fiscal years up to the term ended in March 2020. “
The memorandum also states JIP will get to, “utilize the innovative technology and unique product development capabilities which have been developed within Olympus” while allowing for a corporate structure that’s, “more compact, efficient and agile.” So we could see a nimble little camera company appear offering some very enticing digital cameras once the deal is concluded.
As for the future of Olympus Corporation, it makes most of its money from other industries already. The company has a hand in the surgical, scientific, and industrial equipment markets, and is thought to hold a 70 percent share of the global market for gastro-intestinal endoscopes. It sounds as though Olympus will be just fine and probably relieved not to have to worry about selling cameras anymore.