Toshiba is close to selling its image sensor business to Sony for about $165 million, according to sources close to the matter. Both companies are significant players in the smartphone camera sensor industry, and the purchase of Toshiba’s sensor arm would signal Sony’s focus on maintaining its strong position.
The deal would be part of Toshiba’s major restructuring plan, laid out earlier this year after the company shared that it overstated earnings by $1.3 billion going back to fiscal 2008-2009, according to Reuters.
Toshiba is looking to sell its image sensor plant in southern Japan and get out of the sensor business altogether, according to sources cited by Reuters.
Image sensors are becoming an increasingly popular smartphone spec, as cameras continue to improve in quality, and as cameras on Android phones have caught up with and even exceeded the formerly superior Apple iPhone cameras. Sony’s sensors are recognized as first class and are used in the widely lauded Nexus 6P, which is manufactured by Huawei. They also appear in some of Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones and the LG G4, among others. In May, Sony claimed about 40 percent of the smartphone image sensor market, making it the clear industry leader.
The purchase of Toshiba’s sensor business would be a sign that Sony is intent on keeping its lead over competitors like Samsung, OmniVision, and SK Hynix. “Sony raised fresh capital to beef up the component’s production capacity earlier this year, and it also recently purchased a small Belgian sensor-technology company,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Sony Xperia Z5 is currently ranked by DxOMark as the smartphone with the best camera for photos and video. In fact, the top nine cameras are in smartphones that use Sony’s image sensors.
With smartphones set to include multiple image sensors in the near future, the industry looks ready to grow even more in prominence.