Earlier today, Olympus, which for decades has manufactured high-end professional digital camera systems as well as consumer-level point-and-shoots, announced that it is leaving the digital imaging business. According to The Verge, Olympus has signed a memorandum of understanding that it will sell off its imaging division to Japan Industrial Partners (JIP), an investment fund.
Like many other digital camera and imaging companies, Olympus has been struggling for years to sell cameras, as many consumers have opted to shoot images and video with their smart phones. But The Wall Street Journal reports that recently there has been additional pressure from U.S. shareholder ValueAct Capital “to improve shareholder returns,” which forced the Olympus Corporation to spin off its imaging division.
The memorandum notes that the deal is to be signed by both parties by the end of September, 2020, and will be finalized by the end of 2020. It also states that “JIP has strong track records in supporting strategic carve-outs” and suggests that the new company will support various camera and lens lines, including “reputable brands such as ‘OM-D’ and ‘ZUIKO.’” The memo also said, “it will utilize the innovative technology and unique product development capabilities which have been developed within Olympus, and will realize continuous growth of the business by bringing better products and services to the users and customers.”
After the sale, Olympus plans to focus on medical devices, such as endoscopes.
It’s an understatement to say that it’s a sad day in the camera industry: Olympus has been making cameras and lenses for more than 80 years, and has produced some rather innovative models, at both the consumer level and professional level, including one of the first digital mirrorless cameras, in 2008, as well as various lines of rugged point-and-shoots. It also recently introduced a pro-level mirrorless camera, Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark III.
Just before press time, we also received the following statement from Akihiko Murata, president of Olympus America Inc., Consumer Products Group:
“As you are aware, the Imaging industry has experienced marked declines for several consecutive years. The market is contracting as the smartphone industry grows, and competition has been steadily increasing in the mirrorless interchangeable lens camera segment.
Due to these long term trends as well as recent market contractions due to COVID-19, the Olympus Imaging Business Unit has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Japan Industrial Partners, Inc. (JIP). According to the MOU, both companies are entering into further discussions about the potential transfer of Olympus’ long-standing Imaging business to JIP by the end of 2020.
During these discussions, Olympus Imaging will operate business as usual and will continue to deliver innovations to our customers, launching new products as planned. Olympus and JIP are committed to providing our stakeholders full transparency about our intentions as plans solidify.
For more details, please also refer to our corporate disclosure ‘Signing of Memorandum of Understanding for Divesture of Imaging Solutions Business’ dated June 24, 2020.” (https://www.olympus-global.com/news/ir/2020/ )