Sony top contender for Olympus equity tie

Sony Corp is the leading contender among firms jostling for an equity stake in Olympus Corp.

Tokyo: Sony Corp is the leading contender among firms jostling for an equity stake in Olympus Corp, Japanese business weekly Diamond reported on its website, as the scandal-hit medical equipment maker moves to shore up its finances.

Olympus may hold a news conference as early as this week on a possible tie-up with Sony, which would boost its existing 0.03 percent holding in the medical equipment and camera maker to several percent, the magazine said.

Diamond also quoted an unnamed Sony executive as saying that the consumer electronics maker`s chief executive Howard Stringer had already given the green light for a deal.

Sony, which supplies image sensors to Olympus, is one of several electronics and precision instruments makers that bankers and media reports have said are interested in a deal as they target the lucrative medical sector, where Olympus holds a dominant global market share in diagnostic endoscopes.

Other companies that have been mentioned by bankers and media reports as potential partners include Panasonic Corp, Fujifilm Holdings Corp, Canon Inc and Terumo Corp.

Olympus spokeswoman Saori Yamazaki said no news conference had been scheduled and no decisions had been made on the matter.
"We are currently considering various management reform options but no specific decisions have been made on any issues," she said.

Sony spokesman Shigenori Yoshida said the company had no comment.

Olympus` shares surged in early Monday trade, rising as much as 7.5 percent to 1,289 yen, helped also by the Tokyo Stock Exchange`s Friday decision to keep the stock listed.

The stock is still down nearly 50 percent since the company fired its British chief executive Michael Woodford on October 14, triggering a series of stunning revelations in a $1.7 billion accounting fraud.

Diamond quoted an unnamed Sony executive as touting the potential strength of combining Olympus` 70 percent share of the global market for diagnostic endoscopes with Sony`s advanced technology in image sensors.

It also cited an Olympus executive, however, as questioning whether a capital infusion from another company was necessary given the strong cash flow from the endoscope business.
But Olympus President Shuichi Takayama has emphasized that the company needs to bolster its equity ratio after it was depleted by the scandal.

Negotiations over an equity deal have nevertheless been hobbled by a leadership vacuum at Olympus, where the scandal-tainted management has said it will not resign until an extraordinary shareholders` meeting in the latter half of April.

Takayama has also said that a decision on any major moves such as an equity tie-up would have to wait until the installation of the new management.

Bureau Report