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Sony pumps £400 million into Olympus as medical devices arm takes shape

Sony has announced a ¥50 billion (nearly £400 million) investment in Olympus that will focus on boosting the companies' camera and medical businesses.

In a statement, Sony and Olympus said they want to "enhance their competitiveness" in compact digital cameras. Olympus will provide technologies like camera lenses and mirror cells to Sony, while Olympus will have access to Sony image sensors.

The two firms have also established a medical business venture. They will combine Olympus's manufacturing and R&D expertise, brand recognition, global sales and marketing expertise in medical products, and its lens and optical technologies, with Sony's strengths in digital imaging technologies such as image sensors and image technologies, including 3D and 4K. Ideally, the two firms will be able to provide technology to operating rooms and other medical venues.

"Through this alliance, the strengths of the two companies will merge, certainly making it possible for Olympus to contribute to world medical progress by developing a variety of new medical devices that would not be possible by Olympus alone," Olympus president Hiroyuki Sasa said in a statement.

"We are aggressively pursuing the growth of our medical business, with the aim of developing it into a key pillar of our overall business portfolio," Sony chief Kazuo Hirai said in a statement.

Sony has struggled in the last year, sustaining a major hit thanks to the PlayStation Network hack. But then-newly appointed CEO Hirai told the crowd at February's Mobile World Congress that his goal for the coming months was to rebuild Sony's electronic business, and, apparently, grow a new medical devices arm.

The investment will also help Olympus strengthen its financial base, following the company's confession last year to a 13-year accounting fraud.

Prior to teaming up with Sony, Olympus allegedly rejected offers from medical device maker Terumo and camera maker Fujifilm, Reuters said, adding that the rival companies were looking for more direct contact with Olympus than Sony.

The joint venture, expected to begin by the end of the year, gives Sony a 51 per cent stake, while Olympus carries 49 per cent.