FA poll: Olympus

In search of the perfect partner for Olympus

Olympus is seeking a partner with deep pockets, so we ask readers who they reckon fits the bill.

We asked our readers last week to help set up Olympus with a decent partner. As prospective Valentines go, it’s fair to say that the troubled Japanese camera firm brings an amount of baggage to the table: money problems, questionable relationships and a damaged reputation, to name a few.

The extent of its money problems became a bit clearer yesterday, when the company said that it expects to report a loss of $410 million in its full-year accounts at the end of March. It stressed that the poor performance was not caused by its recent accounting scandal, which involved the revelation by its former chief executive that the company had hidden $1.7 billion in deferred losses stemming from 1990s-vintage investments gone wrong.

Instead, the losses were caused by impairments in its camera business, which has struggled to cope with the strong yen, and the de-recognition of some tax assets, the firm said in an announcement.

Even so, Olympus has no shortage of suitors. So much so, in fact, that our poll produced no clear answer. With a quarter of the votes in a five-horse race, Nikon just edged it from Fujifilm and Samsung, while Sony, which is one of the pundits’ favourites, came in dead last.

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Spoiling the fun somewhat, Olympus president Shuichi Takayama poured cold water on the speculation yesterday when he said that any merger talks would have to wait for the appointment of a new management team in April. He even told reporters that Olympus may be able to continue without an outside capital injection.

Few believe that Olympus will be that lucky. Its medical imaging business is still going strong and is an asset that its rivals are eyeing with interest. Sony in particular is reported to be keen to get into medical services in a bid to counteract losses from sales of its televisions. Fujifilm already makes medical imaging devices and sees Olympus as a good match.

Such interest suggests that Olympus is right when it says that its brand, at least in the medical field, remains untarnished despite the accounting scandal. That may yet prove to be its saving grace.

¬ Haymarket Media Limited. All rights reserved.
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