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Konica-Minolta to quit photography market

Can't compete in the digital era

Konica-Minolta today revealed it is to quit photography business after more than 103 years - with the loss of 3,700 jobs worldwide.

The company also said it will move out of the camera market - digital and analogue - beyond the digital SLR systems and lenses it designs for Sony under a development deal forged in July 2005.

Under a new deal with Sony, Konica-Minolta will hand over a "portion" of its digital SLR assets, along with its own-brand digital camera customer service operation, to Sony on 31 March. On that date, it will also stop selling digital and film cameras of its own.

The withdrawal from the broader photography market will take longer, KM said. It will reduce its colour film and photographic paper product lines in stages over the next 14 months, with a view to ceasing production entirely by 31 March 2007.

Its Minilab development system will be dropped on 31 March, when KM's current fiscal year comes to a close. However, KM said it will engage third-parties to ensure existing Minilab systems can continue to be maintained.

Last year, KM's camera business lost ¥7.3bn ($62.3m) on net sales of ¥117bn ($1.01bn). The company today said the operation will this year contribute annual sales of ¥75bn ($650.2m), a year-on-year fall of 35.9 per cent.

KM said the move will necessitate some job cuts, the cost of which will be taken in the current fiscal year. Some staff will be transferred to other firms within the group, but some 3,700 workers need to be shed by 30 September 2007, the company warned, many through early retirement schemes, it hopes. KM currently employs 33,000 worldwide.

KM will focus its efforts on non-consumer businesses, including optical and display devices and medical imaging systems.

KM's move comes just a week after Nikon said it was quitting the film camera market to focus on high-end digital SLR cameras and lenses. In November 2005, Olympus said it too plans to focus on the digital SLR market. ®

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