Sony and Olympus: what does it mean?

Following the accounting scandal that saw former CEO Michael Woodford ousted, Olympus’ coffers were looking decidedly empty; at that point, many potential suitors were rumoured. It turned out that Sony was the one whose offer was accepted. In a share transfer and cash deal – completed about a month ago – Sony pumped US$645 million into the company, to hold a total of 11.5%. What’s more interesting is that on most of the major business sites, this wasn’t reported as a transaction to invest in the cameramaker; rather, Olympus was frequently referred to as a ‘world leader in medical imaging’.

Although photographers know and love Olympus as the manufacturer of various quirky cameras and small systems, the truth is that margins in the medical industry – anything with ‘surgical’ or ‘medical’ in its name means an extra couple of zeroes on the end of the price tag – are much, much higher than the camera business. Like Nikon, it’s been making a good chunk of its income from something other than cameras for a long time. (I don’t know how much it makes from dictaphones these days, though.)

I’m going to take off my photographer hat now and wear my analyst/ M&A/ consultant one, for a bit of change of pace. Let’s put the pieces together.

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POTD: Spot the snowflake

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House near Strakhov Cloister, Prague. Olympus E-PM1, 45/1.8

The title of this shot is a bit of a red herring: yes, there is a snowflake, but no, it isn’t really visible at this size. What drew me to this scene was the balance of color; the simple geometry of house and sky; the texture of the tan wall and the two little details (visible in the full size shot) – the snowflake decorations in the window, and the moon hanging low in the early morning sky. I suspect this would make a great large print, but I haven’t had a chance to find out yet. MT

POTD: Evening silhouette

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Because I couldn’t decide which shot I preferred, and because there are no rules saying I can’t post twice…
Evening silhouette. Olympus E-PM1, 45/1.8

POTD: Man in the middle

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Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna. Olympus E-PM1, 45/1.8

POTD: Industry and nature

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Unknown power station in winter, en route from Prague to Vienna
Leica M9, 28/2.8 ASPH

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