Speculation over a sale is only the latest chapter of the Olympus financial scandal saga. The company has been struggling to keep its stock listed while determining what to do with its sullied board, and more importantly what to do about the $1.1 billion missing from its balance sheet.
And when a company is having money and image problems, acquisition almost immediately comes to mind. While initially smaller firms seemed interested in the potential sale, new details suggest that Fujifilm is considering buying Olympus. According to Bloomberg, “Fujifilm, which makes equipment for medical scans, has been reported as a possible bidder for Japanese camera maker Olympus.” However, Fujifilm CEO Shigetaka Komori recently said it’s premature to talk about such an acquisition.
Aside from the controversy, Olympus is a major camera brand that has been on top of the digital imaging game for years. It’s recently found major success in the micro-four-thirds market with its PEN series, and its cameras are consistently well-reviewed. Unfortunately, Olympus is also more dependent on its medical imaging equipment division, and if something is going to go, it will likely be its consumer camera business. Industry analysts seem to agree that some sort of sale is in the company’s best interest: “…Olympus has to increase capital. It’s best for the company to merge with others than rebuild itself,” Ryosuke Okazaki of ITC Investment Partners tells Reuters.
A sale would mean a restructured and likely unrecognizable Olympus. Its technology would be woven into Fujifilm (or Ricoh or wherever it’s purchased), and anyone’s guess is as good as ours as to whether we’d see similar camera quality in new products. However, if Olympus’ camera division is going to be purchase, Fujifilm might be the best home it could hope for. The brand has made new and lauded efforts in the consumer market and is rumored to be working on an MFT line-up, something Olympus’ technology obviously knows a thing or two about. A smaller or struggling manufacturer might not be able to continue funding the quality we’re used to seeing from Olympus.
While a sale only seemed like a possibility at first, it’s sounding more and more certain. When a company is struggling to keep its head above water—which is basically what avoiding being delisted from the stock exchange is—it’s not likely to be concerned about rebuilding and financing a segment that isn’t even its primary source of revenue.
Ousted CEO Michael Woodford, also known as the whistleblower in this mess, has been lobbying for his old job once the board is dismissed (members have said they will resign next month). Woodford has said he would have no intentions of breaking up or selling parts of Olympus. Whether he is reinstated has yet to be determined.