Olympus has announced plans to get out of the camera business entirely, selling off its imaging division to an investment fund. Japan Industrial Partners, the company that bought the VAIO computer business from Sony, has signed a memorandum of understanding that will see Olympus spin out the division and transfer all of its shares.
The imaging division is a small part of Olympus’ business, which is now largely focused on providing medical equipment such as endoscopes. CEO Yasuo Takeuchi hinted to reporters last year that the camera division wasn’t off-limits for a sale, although the company later downplayed those remarks.
Olympus says 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 has concluded that its efforts weren’t enough. As it did with VAIO, JIP plans to streamline the business and will continue to develop products using Olympus brands such as OM-D and Zuiko.
Olympus’ imaging division, which has centered around Micro Four Thirds-format mirrorless cameras for the past decade, has lost money for the last three years. The Pen series, based on a classic half-frame film line, triggered the wave of retro digital mirrorless cameras with 2009’s E-P1, and Olympus released several well-received cameras throughout the 2010s.
Olympus and JIP plan to sign a definitive agreement by the end of September, with the deal expected to close later this year. Financial terms of the acquisition haven’t yet been made public.