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Sony Declines to Comment on Report of Tie-Up Talks With Olympus

Sony Corp. today declined to comment on media reports it’s near agreement to invest in Olympus Corp., the Japanese endoscope maker that admitted to accounting fraud last year.

Sony has made no decision and wasn’t the source of the reports, the consumer electronics maker said in a statement to the Tokyo Stock Exchange today. Olympus yesterday denied a report by public broadcaster NHK that the two companies are in the final stages of talks.

“We haven’t narrowed down the candidates for capital alliance,” Tsuyoshi Oshima, a spokesman for Olympus, said by phone yesterday.

Sony will invest about 50 billion yen ($640 million) in Olympus and set up a company to manufacture medical equipment, NHK reported. Tokyo-based Olympus was in discussions with Terumo Corp., Asia’s biggest maker of medical devices, Sony and Fujifilm Holdings Corp. about possible tie-ups, Olympus Chairman Yasuyuki Kimoto said in July.

The Nikkei newspaper also reported the 50 billion yen investment today, saying an agreement may happen within a month. Nikkei didn’t give a source for the information.

Olympus restated earnings last year, taking a $1.3 billion cut in total equity, after admitting it paid inflated fees on takeovers and overpaid for three Japanese companies to conceal past investment losses.

Founded in 1919 as a microscope and thermometer business, Olympus is the world’s biggest maker of endoscopes, used to look inside the body. It controls about 75 percent of the global market for the instruments, which are used to diagnose diseases such as colorectal cancer.

Olympus gained 1.9 percent to 1,555 yen in Tokyo trading yesterday before the NHK report. The shares have gained 54 percent this year, following a 59 percent plunge last year.

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