Sony Corp. (NYSE:SNE) To Buy Minority Stake In Olympus Corp. (TYO:7733)

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By Yannick LeJacq | September 29, 2012 7:18 AM EST

Olympus Corp. (TYO: 7733) said Friday it is selling an 11.5 percent stake in itself to Sony Corp. (NYSE:SNE) for  ¥50 billion ($645 million) in a move that raises badly need capital for the Tokyo-based digital imaging and camera company.

The new deal, which will make fellow Japanese company Sony the largest shareholder, will give Sony one seat on the Olympus board. The cost of the Olympus shares is ¥1,454 per share ($18.74), a 4.3 percent discount to Friday's closing price of ¥1,520. 

Olympus has been searching for a capital injection since an accounting scandal resulted in the company's shares falling by 90 percent in the last 12 months. 

The companies will create a joint venture to develop medical technology and new types of compact digital cameras, capitalizing on Sony's strength in digital imaging and Olympus' strength in medical technology. Sony will own 51 percent of the new entity and Olympus will own 49 percent.

‘‘By accepting an investment from Sony, we will not only strengthen our financial base, but also combine our strengths and develop the kind of medical devices that we may not have been able to develop on our own,‘‘ Hiroyuki Sasa, the president of Olympus, said.

Since Kazuo Hirai took over the reins of Sony, the company has been searching for new sources of revenue as it continues to post losses and its once-prominent TV business falters behind regional competitors like Samsung Electronics Co. (LON: BC94).  Originally, Sony highlighted a strategy known as “One Sony” to renew focus on a small cluster of core products such as gaming, digital imaging and mobile technology. But with a third-quarter earnings reports looming and having recently suffered another downgrade from the Standard & Poor’s  -- just months after it was downgraded to BBB+ last February-- Sony is scrambling to propose new offerings for investors.

Hirai said he plans to position medical tech “as one of Sony’s future core businesses.”

Olympus shares climbed 1.7 percent to ¥1,520 ($19.49) on Friday after news broke of the deal. With the scandal that cost Olympus nine-tenths of its share value since it first broke last October finally winding to a close thanks to a guilty plea earlier this week, the company has recovered nearly half of its previous share values.

Shares in Sony, meanwhile, dropped 1.1 percent to ¥919 ($11.78), already having fallen 34 percent so far this year. 

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