We're still a little short of the public announcement, but Reuters is now reporting that Ricoh Co. Ltd., the copier and printer manufacturer that also has a small digital camera business of its own, is set to buy Pentax from Hoya Corp. by October.
It was widely thought in 2007 that Hoya was acquiring Pentax for the latter's medical equipment technology business and expertise, which it will retain. It was believed then that Hoya would not keep the Pentax Camera Division for long but would seek a buyer.
Pentax has an outsized reputation among photography buffs because of its long and storied history; the marque was a leading cameramaker and a household name in the first decade of SLRs, the 1960s. (Early bayonet-mount Ricoh SLRs, from the KR-5, used the Pentax K-mount standard, so Ricoh and Pentax K-mount cameras and lenses were cross-compatible.) Recently Pentax's latest digital SLRs and lenses have earned praise even as its compact camera business has fallen off somewhat.
Where cameras are concerned, Ricoh is strongest in enthusiast-oriented compacts.
Market share figures for DSLRs and for cameras overall are very different; Sony, for instance, is very close to Canon for overall share, but Canon is way out in front when it comes to DSLRs. Pentax's market share in cameras overall is only 1.5%, but its share of DSLR sales is considerably healthier.
The sale price was not revealed, but Reuters said the Nikkei business daily estimated it at approximately ¥10 billion (~$124 million). At the news of the sale, Hoya stock rose a reported 6% and Ricoh stock slipped slightly.
(Coincidentally, the Ricoh GXR just arrived on the porch of Chez TOP today, and I've been futzing happily with it all evening.)
UPDATE: It's official. In a press release dated July 1, 2011, Hoya Corporation (Hiroshi Suzuki, President and CEO) has now posted "Notice of Sale of the PENTAX Imaging Systems Business" to Ricoh Company Ltd., effective October 1.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Nikhil Ramkarran: "Oh dear, just when the doomsayers and alarmists got quiet (finally) about the sale to Hoya, this comes along. So who's up for counting the number of creative theories that will be discussed about how Pentax will die? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?"
Featured Comment by Dennis: "One way to look at it: maker of photographer-oriented DSLRs merges with maker of photographer-oriented compacts. Another way to look at it: maker of GXR merges with maker of Q. Could be brilliant or could be a disaster."
Featured Comment by Steve Jacob: "Just to add some perspective about the market's reception to this news:
"Ricoh itself is quite a decent sized company. Market cap is about $8b, but this is down from $15b in 2007, despite the change in the $ rate against the Yen, which is a concern. By comparison Hoya was rated at $9.9b.
"However if Ricoh are planning to build an extensive camera line of premium compacts and SLRs (as we all hope) the company as a whole (not the tiny camera division) is going to have to invest considerable resources into expanding it. Since they bought Pentax for a snip this is obviously what they are planning.
"However they have two primary structural issues to overcome. Between them they now have four currently supported interchangeable lens systems if you count the GRX, yet the still dont have a mirrorless APSC solution. Nikon and Canon have one mount each but will likely introduce another soon (mirrorless APSC), Oly and Panny have two but have abandoned one of them almost entirely; same for Samsung. Sony have two, but one is outselling the other considerably. All of these companies sell more cameras than Ricoh/Pentax.
"I'm sure Ricoh do want the lens mount technology. It's worth bearing in mind that Pentax was one of the big five who share all the propriatery patents (with Oly, Sony, Canon and Nikon) for SLR, AF and interchangeable lens mount systems, so Ricoh needed the acquisition to avoid licensing costs.
"However, they are going to have to rationalise what, from a business perspective, is a very disjointed product lineup with massive inherent inefficiencies. Having to design a lens lineup for 645, K series, Q series, GXR series and any future CSC series will reduce each lens lineup to a mere trickle of new products. Developing new lenses is a hugely expensive undertaking and the sales volumes do not support more than one premium and two other lenses a year across all systems. If you only have one system, no problem. If you have five, it is. I don't see how they could introduce a CSC APSC model right now without suspending all other lens development for three years.
"Possibly why Pentax users are complaining about a lack of new glass for the K. The answer is simple. 645D and Q took all the designers away.
"I don't see Ricoh scrapping the K series. I expect to see APSC SLRs and lenses in Pentax K designation for a while. My big question is which other lens mounts and lines will they maintain?
"Q is unproven, GXR is a slow seller, the rest of the compacts are humdrum (Pentax are most successful at ruggedised compacts). 645D is a huge drain on resources, especially if they decide to built a series of new lenses for it. At current volumes and pricing I can't see it making a lot of commercial sense, though it does add cachet to the brand.
"So, all I can say is expect to see the APSC SLR range maintained and a new range of premium compacts to emerge, possibly with interchangeable lenses. Sure hope Pentax designed Q mount for a larger image circle. I suspect everything else is questionable."
Featured Comment by Robert Roaldi: "So now Ricoh will own Pentax. The guys who dreamed up the GXR will get together with the guys who dreamed up an interchangeable lens tiny-sensor camera system. That might turn out to be a wild place to work. I picture a roomful of engineers in cubicles giggling.
"If I win a lottery, I am going to go buy one of everything Ricoh and Pentax make, just for the hell of it."