Asahi Optical Co., the financially ailing maker of Pentax cameras, said Monday it will cut personnel by 13 percent and close a domestic lens plant under a new medium-term management plan.

Asahi said it plans to slash its workforce of 2,300 by 300, primarily through an early-retirement program targeting workers aged 45 to 60.

The retirement program, scheduled to be implemented on Aug. 31, is expected to result in an extraordinary loss of 2.6 billion yen in the current business year to March 2002, but it is also projected to reduce annual labor costs by 2 billion yen starting in the next business year.

Asahi will close its replacement lens plant in Saitama Prefecture by transferring its operations to other plants, including one in Vietnam, over the coming year.

Asahi on Monday reported a consolidated net loss of 1.24 billion yen in the year ended March 31, down from the previous year’s loss of 12.14 billion yen but the second consecutive year in the red.

Asahi also incurred a consolidated operating loss of 512 million yen and a pretax loss of 626 million yen on group sales of 103.53 billion yen, down 8.8 percent from the previous year.

, when the firm registered a consolidated operating profit of 736 million yen and a pretax loss of 3.20 billion yen.

Olympus profits leap

Olympus Optical Co. on Monday reported a record consolidated net profit of 11.79 billion yen in the year ended March 31, a more than six-fold increase from the previous year.

The major camera and precision equipment maker attributed the steep growth in net profit to brisk sales of digital cameras as well as substantial cost-cutting.

Its previous record group net profit was 9.31 billion yen, set in the year ended March 1998.

The company said it chalked up a record group pretax profit of 22.69 billion yen, up 9.2 percent, on record sales of 466.7 billion yen, up 8.9 percent. Per-share net profit was 44.57 yen, up from the preceding year’s 7.03 yen.

For the current year to March 2002, Olympus expects a group net profit of 16.5 billion yen, or 62.39 yen per share, and a pretax profit of 30 billion yen on sales of 525 billion yen.

On an unconsolidated basis, Olympus said it posted a pretax profit of 12.34 billion yen, up 56.5 percent, and a net profit of 7.51 billion yen compared with the prior year’s net loss of 5.09 billion yen, on sales of 312.93 billion yen, up 12 percent.

Net profit per share was 28.39 yen, in a turnaround from a 19.24 yen net loss in the previous year.

The company said it will pay a per-share dividend of 13 yen for the just-ended year — double the dividend of the preceding year — and that it intends to keep the dividend fixed for the current year.

For the current year, Olympus expects to register a parent pretax profit of 20 billion yen and a net profit of 11 billion yen, or 41.59 yen per share, on sales of 347 billion yen.

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