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What just happened? Olympus is a well-known name in the world of photography, but despite previously denying it would get out of the camera business, that’s exactly what it’s done. The company has announced that Japan Industrial Partners (JIP), the same firm that bought Sony’s VAIO computer segment, has signed a memorandum of understanding that will see it acquire the division.
The increasing photographic power of smartphones has seen fewer consumers buying digital cameras. They’re still used by hobbyists and professionals, but the number of everyday users has dropped as handsets become more advanced.
The smartphone problem is something Olympus acknowledges. The company wrote that it “implemented measures to cope with the extremely severe digital camera market, due to, amongst others, rapid market shrink caused by the evolution of smartphones.” But these steps weren’t enough, and it “recorded operating losses for three consecutive fiscal years up to the term ended in March 2020.”
The last decade wasn’t the best for Olympus, which has been one of the leading manufacturers in the Micro Four Thirds category. In addition to the rise of smartphones, it had to deal with a $1.7 billion accounting scandal back in 2013.
Olympus CEO Yasuo Takeuchi suggested last year that a sale of its camera business wasn’t an impossibility, but the company later tried to downplay his comments, claiming it definitely wouldn’t be selling.
As was the case with VAIO, JIP says it plans to streamline the business to make it “more compact, efficient and agile,” which often translates to layoffs. It will also sell existing models and develop new ones under Olympus brands such as OM-D and Zuiko. Olympus, meanwhile, will be concentrating on the larger part of its business—supplying medical equipment.
“During the ongoing discussions, Imaging will continue business as usual. Sales, service and marketing departments will continue to work hard to support customers passionate about photography with great products and services,” said Olympus.
The deal is expected to be concluded by September 30. How much JIP paid for the acquisition has not been revealed.