Olympus has endured some very public legal and financial woes lately. The company has found itself in serious debt after years of shady business practices from executives and board members, and buyout rumors have surfaced. Now it appears that instead of selling its camera business, Olympus is negotiating to partner with Sony.
Japanese site Diamond Online reports that the two will coordinate to “enhance the synergy of business and technology” [mind the Japanese translation]. According to sources, Olympus is an attractive asset for Sony because it controls 70-percent of the world’s endoscope business—a sector that has been incredibly profitable for Olympus. And in turn, Sony’s strides in image sensor technology will benefit the troubled company (Sony supplies image sensors to Olympus as is).
The partnership should be finalized in April.
Apparently, Sony is a more attractive partner to Olympus than some of the other interested parties, which were rumored to include Fujifilm (which Reuters says isn’t out of the bidding yet), Ricoh, Panasonic, and Canon. Some of these companies wanted to execute more control over Olympus, while Sony is satisfied with what the site calls a “loose alliance.” After nearly being delisted on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, Olympus is forced to restructure the pieces of its company to please authorities, and gutting its board and partnering with a well-known image technology company (not to mention a major company in general in Sony) signal a transformation.
As sad as it is that Olympus will be forced into these corporate ties, it’s a necessary move. The company needs a hero, especially in the wake of news that it will be sued for more than $2.6 million in damages by a group of shareholders. And if a “loose alliance” is really in the cards, it means very little could change from a consumer perspective.