30 June 2020

The Wall Street Journal: “Olympus to Exit Camera Business after 84 Years”

The Tokyo company, which has been under pressure from U.S. shareholder ValueAct Capital to improve shareholder returns, said Wednesday that it planned to sell its camera unit to private-equity firm Japan Industrial Partners Inc. It didn’t disclose financial details. The companies aim to complete their deal by the end of the year.

As recently as 2007, the dawn of the smartphone era, digital cameras were a $3-billion-a-year business for Olympus. Within a few years, however, most of the market evaporated because people were using their phones to take pictures. Camera revenue shrank to just over $400 million in the year ended March 31, and the business has lost money for the past three fiscal years.

The company’s main product line is now medical-imaging devices such as endoscopes.

Kosaku Narioka

Unfortunate news, but not unexpected, especially in the context of the massive economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

Olympus mirrorless digital camera
An Olympus Corp. OM-D E-M10 Mark II mirrorless digital camera. Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

I find it interesting that Nikon has also invested in the medical-imaging business in recent years, and as far as I know their financial situation is not exactly blooming. Will Nikon be the next major camera maker to abandon this shrinking market and shift entirely to medical imaging?

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