Panasonic, Samsung to propose tie-up with Olympus: report

TOKYO Wed Feb 1, 2012 8:34am EST

Logo of Panasonic Corp. is seen at CEATEC JAPAN 2011 electronics show in Chiba, east of Tokyo, October 4, 2011. The IT & Electronics comprehensive exhibition goes on till October 8. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Logo of Panasonic Corp. is seen at CEATEC JAPAN 2011 electronics show in Chiba, east of Tokyo, October 4, 2011. The IT & Electronics comprehensive exhibition goes on till October 8.

Credit: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Panasonic Corp and South Korea's Samsung Electronics have each decided to propose capital ties with disgraced medical equipment maker Olympus Corp, the Mainichi newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Other firms are already jostling to partner with Olympus, which has a 70 percent share of the global market for diagnostic endoscopes. Fujifilm Holdings Corp has proposed an alliance while medical equipment maker Terumo Corp has said it wants to strengthen ties.

Electronics giant Sony Corp is also interested, sources have said.

Still another Japanese firm, which was not identified, is also soon set to make a proposal to Olympus, which is looking to shore up its finances after a $1.7 billion accounting fraud severely depleted its net assets, the newspaper said.

A Panasonic spokesman said the company was checking the report and had no immediate comment. Samsung declined to comment.

Olympus is unlikely to respond quickly to any approaches. Olympus's president has said any decision on alliances should be made by a new management team, due to chosen at a shareholders' meeting in April.

The accounting scandal erupted after Olympus fired its British chief executive Michael Woodford on October 14, prompting him to blow the whistle on the firm's dubious bookkeeping.

Since then, Olympus has admitted to having used improper accounting tricks to conceal massive investment losses, and is under investigation by law enforcement agencies in Japan, Britain and the United States.

Olympus shares have fallen by half since the scandal surfaced, leaving it with a market capitalization of just $4.5 billion.

However, the company is being supported by major Japanese shareholders, who prefer bringing in an equity partner rather than selling the whole company or its assets.

(Reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Richard Pullin)

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