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JIP: Will it go the “Vaio” route or will it just sell the business?


The German magazin Photografix analyzed the activity of JIP. In most cased JIP resold the companies that they bought. A few examples:

  • SII Micro Parts Co., Ltd. (2003 – 2007)
  • Rakuten KC Co., Ltd. (2004 – 2005)
  • Laserfornt Technologies, Inc. (2004 – 2007)
  • ITX Corp. (2012 – 2015)
  • BIGLOBE, Inc. (2014 – 2016)
  • VAIO Ltd. (2014 – ?)
  • KM Aluminium Co., Ltd. (2015 – ?)

The interesting news is that JIP also had bought Olympus Smartphone division “ITX” in 2012. They sold it three years after. Photografix believes there is a chance that JIP will handle the Imaging Division like the Vaio division: Make it slim, outsource production to lower the costs, and maybe Olympus will still have a small remaining stake in this business.

But there could be also this darker scenario:

Doug Janis summed up the (possible?) dark truth about JIP, the company that is going to buy the Olympus camera business. Warning: I don’t know what’s going to happen and I have no elements to say if what Doug is writing here is correct. But my feeling is that in those days it’s a better bet to believe in “rumors” than in company statements :(

Doug writes:

JIP is worth US$150 million.

YoY Olympus Imaging (its camera wing) is losing US$156 million.

JIP specializes in taking under-performing assets and parsing them out. They are not a turnaround company. In Japan, it’s extremely expensive to downsize employees and pensions and salaries. So companies like JIP exist to take assets and sell them apart from those obligations.

In the last 5 years JIP has sold off assets of over 14 companies. Not one has it ever restructured or continued development. It doesn’t have the capital. JIP exists solely to manage brands for the benefit of shared agreements with shareholders. That’s why VAIO is 10% owned by Sony and why JIP outsources all design and manufacture to Chinese parts bin suppliers for components. JIP has no R&D, no internal development, no engineers, nothing. They are accountants.

They are a vulture fund of privately owned equity partners designed to get around Japanese pension, retention, and servicing laws.

This is very bad news for the Olympus brand and its invested customers. The Japanese news is all over this as well because JIP is notorious for Chinese outsourcing at a time when it’s official domestic policy to onshore key industries. This is another example of Olympus having a tin ear.

In Japan apparently most external sales staff (non-Japanese) have been let go. This started months ago. Most of the software, design, and optical engineers have left or are moving to medical imaging. Overseas assembly plants are being quietly shopped for real estate value alone. The glazing kilns are shutting down for consumer Imaging. The company is preparing to only sell from inventory. New products are technically on hold until Olympus figures out how much to pay JIP to take these losses off their hands. Olympus Visionaries in some countries have already been told they must stick to NDAs and there is no marketing budget nor equipment available.

That’s right. The news out of Japan is that this is NOT a sale, but a divestment at loss. Olympus will have to pay JIP to take Imaging, basically giving them the consumer patent portfolio in exchange. The reason for the press release is Olympus has to divulge now that it will be paying cash for JIP to take the assets. That warns shareholders. This was NOT about the loyal consumer. Anyone who thinks this is a deep pockets investor seeking a new product line, or this is an “under new management” improvement needs to know exactly what JIP is as a company. They exist to help Olympus get rid of their consumer Imaging portfolio entirely.

This is likely the end of Olympus and Zuiko. The Japanese inside information is much more revealing than the web-based stories in English media. You have to go to the accounting and engineering boards in Japan to hear the dirt.

I now have a small rationale hope and a crazy hope:

  • The small rational hope is that Panasonic and the other MFT consortium members will still be fully committed to MFT.
  • The crazy hope is that Olympus at the end will decide to NOT sell the imaging business to JIP.

Thanks Doug for the nice writing and Mistral for sharing

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