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Pentax Corp. will try to nearly double its annual operating profit in three years, a company official said Thursday, as the firm faces pressure from its biggest shareholder to raise its market value.

The country’s oldest single-lens reflex camera maker, which scrapped a planned merger with bigger rival Hoya Corp. in April, aims to have a group operating profit of about 10 billion yen by the end of business 2009, up from an estimated 5.5 billion yen for the business year that ended in March, said the official, who asked not to be named.

The move comes after Tokyo-based asset manager Sparx Group Co., which owns a stake of about 30 percent, criticized Pentax for rejecting an acquisition offer from Hoya. Sparx has said Pentax should provide alternative options to raise the value of the firm.

The plan is expected to be announced in a midterm business plan due out Friday, along with the release of its 2006 earnings report.

Pentax hopes to enhance its three main business segments — digital cameras, optical components and medical products — and streamline less profitable operations.

The official said the company is also considering ending the development of digital SLR cameras, designed for professional photographers. It instead will focus on developing new digital cameras for general consumers.

Under the business plan, Pentax is also considering selling its head office building in Tokyo’s Itabashi Ward to help consolidate operations, Jiji Press reported.

Since the merger plan bogged down, Hoya has been considering a tender offer to try to get a stake of more than 50 percent in Pentax. Late last month, Pentax President Takashi Watanuki hinted the company might not approve Hoya’s takeover bid, saying in an interview that a tender offer was “a completely new proposal.”

Watanuki took over Pentax’s helm April 10, the day Pentax scrapped the planned stock-swap merger with Hoya and ousted Fumio Urano, the architect of the plan. Sparx, an asset management firm, wants Urano brought back and supports Hoya’s tender offer plan.

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