Canon Inc, the world's largest digital-camera maker, plans to bring sales of its semiconductor steppers under the same division that handles production in order to increase responsiveness to customer demands in a shrinking market, the Nikkei business daily reported.

The two operations have been run separately, with Canon managing production and subsidiary Canon Marketing Japan overseeing sales and servicing, the paper said.

In preparation for the merger, slated for January, Canon will revamp its stepper operations on July 1, creating a separate chain of responsibility for each model, the daily said.

Canon will cut 30 percent of the jobs at its semiconductor-related operations. The 700-odd mostly full-time production workers will be reassigned, the paper said.

Late to offer cutting-edge models, Canon ranks third worldwide in stepper market share, behind ASML of the Netherlands and Nikon Corp, the paper said.

The optical products group, which includes steppers, reported a 45.4 billion yen operating loss for the year ended December 2008 as the result of chipmakers' sharp cuts in capital investment. Canon aims to return that group to the black in 2012 through structural reforms, the paper said. (Reporting by Shailesh Kuber in Bangalore; Editing by Vinu Pilakkott)