Panasonic says no plan to invest in Olympus

TOKYO Thu Jun 7, 2012 9:09am EDT

A man visits the Panasonic stand at the National Retail Federation's Annual Convention and Expo in New York January 16, 2012. REUTERS/ Kena Betancur

A man visits the Panasonic stand at the National Retail Federation's Annual Convention and Expo in New York January 16, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/ Kena Betancur

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese electronics maker Panasonic Corp (6752.T) has no plan to invest in Olympus Corp (7733.T), President Fumio Ohtsubo told Reuters on Thursday, contradicting a media report it would invest in the medical equipment maker Olympus, which is struggling to recover from an accounting scandal.

Kyodo news agency reported on Wednesday that Panasonic was making final arrangements to provide up to 50 billion yen ($630 million) in capital to Olympus.

"I don't know where that information came from, not from us," Ohtsubo said on the sidelines of a meeting of the Japan Electrical Manufacturers' Association. "There isn't any," he said when asked if Panasonic had a plan to invest in Olympus.

Olympus last year admitted it used improper accounting to conceal huge investment losses under a scheme that began in the 1990s, after sacked British CEO Michael Woodford raised concerns in October about dubious book-keeping.

Shareholders' equity in Olympus is now 4.6 percent of its total assets as of the end of March, far below the 20 percent level widely regarded as indicative of financial stability for a company, spurring speculation the endoscope maker will seek a capital injection in return for stock.

To mend its dented balance sheet, the firm has considered bringing in a strategic investor, with Sony Corp (6758.T), Fujifilm Holdings Corp (4901.T) and Terumo Corp (4543.T), and Panasonic identified as possible candidates.

While Panasonic is interested in expanding its own healthcare business in a bid to tap a growing market, the company, which posted a record net loss in the year ended March 31, may balk at making a large financial commitment as it counts the cost of restructuring other units.

Olympus shares, which surged to as high as 1,380 yen earlier in the day, were 1.6 percent higher at 1,360 yen in afternoon trading.

($1 = 79.0800 Japanese yen)

(Reporting by Tim Kelly, Writing by Yoko Kubota and Ayai Tomisawa; Editing by Michael Watson, Edwina Gibbs and Michael Perry)

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