Samsung may consider alliance with Olympus: source

Thu Jan 12, 2012 5:54pm EST
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By Hyunjoo Jin and Emi Emoto

SEOUL/TOKYO (Reuters) - South Korea's Samsung Electronics is open to forging an alliance with Japan's troubled Olympus Corp, potentially joining other electronics firms in circling one of the world's biggest names in medical equipment, sources said.

Samsung's major Japanese rivals, Sony and Panasonic, have already shown interest in Olympus, now in need of capital after being swamped by a $1.7 billion accounting scandal over the past three months, sources in Tokyo have told Reuters.

Olympus is best known for cameras, but makes most of its money in healthcare, dominating the market for gastro-intestinal endoscopes which are seen as the kind of high-tech, profitable and stable business that electronics firms would covet.

Samsung has ruled out any interest in Olympus' loss-making camera business, but a company source said on Thursday that it might consider an alliance with Olympus in other areas.

"We are open to the possibility of an alliance with Olympus," the source with knowledge of the matter said on condition of anonymity, without elaborating.

Earlier, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported that Olympus was scouting out the electronics industry for a friendly investor to take a minority stake in the company, and that Olympus had drawn up a short-list of five potential partners.

The daily, quoting unnamed sources, listed them as Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, Japanese medical-equipment firm Terumo Corp, which already has a small stake in Olympus, and endoscope rival Fujifilm Holdings.

Olympus turned almost overnight from a venerable blue chip to an investor's nightmare in October, when it fired its British chief executive, Michael Woodford, who then went public with his concerns about the firm's dubious book-keeping.   Continued...