Monday, April 2, 2012

Olympus may try to tough out scandal without help

olympus Japan's Olympus Corp may be able to recover from a $1.7 billion accounting fraud without raising capital, despite interest in an equity alliance from several investors including electronics giant Sony, its nominee president said on Tuesday.

Hiroyuki Sasa, nominated to take over the reins this month of the disgraced maker of medical equipment and cameras, confirmed reports that Sony and direct rivals Fujifilm and Terumo were among the partnership options.

But Sasa, a veteran Olympus executive and a controversial choice as the firm's next president, said in an interview that he might not need to go ahead with an alliance or any kind of share issue to strengthen the firm's battered balance sheet.

"Our sense of crisis has not wavered," Sasa told Reuters, adding that he would aim to substantially boost Olympus' equity ratio from just 4 percent now to around 30-40 percent.

As a result of the scandal, in which more than $1 billion in investment losses were hidden from Olympus's accounts for 13 years, the firm recently had to restate its books - a reckoning that left it with a precariously thin layer of equity capital.

Foreign shareholders in Olympus have voiced concerns that Olympus, under pressure from its banks, would opt for a big, dilutive issue of new shares. They have argued that Olympus may be able to avoid such a move by instead conserving cash from its big, profitable medical-equipment business.

Sasa, whose appointment flew in the face of foreign shareholders' calls for a complete renewal of management, agreed that it was possible for Olympus to recover on its own. But he stressed that he was keeping all his options open.

"We need to keep our options as wide as possible and consider them carefully," he added.

(Reporting by Reiji Murai and Yoko Kubota; Editing by Linda Sieg and Mark Bendeich)

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