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Nikon fuses optical engineering ops to magnify waning profit

Camera maker looks to other fields as core business sags

A Nikon digital SLR camera.

TOKYO -- Nikon is consolidating optical engineering operations in a new business unit, the Japanese maker of imaging products said Monday, taking the latest in a series of steps to cut costs amid a slump in the core camera business.

Lens-design and engineering functions for products such as cameras, microscopes and equipment used in semiconductor production are being handed off to Nikon's optical engineering division, created Saturday. These functions previously were distributed among three separate divisions. Nikon has said no jobs will be lost in the creation of the new unit, though it is unclear how many workers will be employed after the consolidation.

The change is part of a broader restructuring plan Nikon presented in November amid a slump at camera and chipmaking equipment operations. Measures have been taken since to improve earnings, such as a downsizing of the latter business. Some 1,143 workers across the company volunteered for early retirement, even more than the 1,000 retirements Nikon sought. Optical components production was consolidated under Nikon unit Tochigi Nikon in February. Nikon is moving on to streamline development of optical technologies, its forte.

These changes and the current restructuring are seen costing 53 billion yen ($477 million) in all.

Nikon anticipated a 9 billion yen net loss for the year that ended Friday, down from 18.2 billion yen in profit a year earlier. The growing popularity of smartphones has sparked a slide in sales for the camera business, which makes up around 60% of Nikon's total. The company scrapped plans to fill out its camera lineup, in part by canceling the release of three high-end compact digital models in February.

The hunt is now on for an alternative business plan less reliant on cameras. Nikon is devoting more resources to medical operations, including forming a tie-up with Healios, a Japanese company working with regenerative medicine.

"We're laying the groundwork for a shift to growth in fiscal 2018 and beyond," Nikon President Kazuo Ushida said.

Structural changes such as revised product lineups are set to continue until that time. Changes to production, development and sales operations not included in November's plan are apparently under consideration as well.

(Nikkei)

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