Digital camera and office equipment maker Canon Inc said on Friday it may buy back more of its own shares, adding to the $3.9 billion worth already repurchased so far this year, sending its shares higher.
Canon Managing Director Masahiro Osawa also told Reuters in an interview that he was confident the company would hit its target of selling 24 million digital cameras in 2007, and aims to surpass that target.
Canon has bought back a total 450 billion yen ($3.9 billion) worth of its own shares this year, or five percent of its total shares outstanding, after conducting its first-ever share repurchase in February.
We are prepared to move quickly while watching changes in the business environment ... It's not like we have put an end (to share buybacks), Osawa said.
In the first four of the five share repurchases so far this year, Canon bought back 100 billion yen worth of shares each. But the amount fell to 50 billion yen in the latest one conducted earlier this month.
Osawa said building up a reserve of shares for future acquisitions is one reason for the recent share buybacks, but he did not specify actual targets.
Canon's then-Senior Managing Director Toshizo Tanaka told Reuters in February that forming a tie-up or carrying out M&A in the field of organic light-emitting diodes (OLED) was one possibility for the Tokyo-based company.
Sony Corp plans to launch ultra-thin TVs based on OLED technology this year, becoming the first to market with a TV using the promising next-generation display.
Sitting on a cash pile of about $8 billion even after the recent wave of share buybacks, Canon is well positioned to play a major role in M&A activities in Japan's overcrowded electronics sector, which analysts say is ripe for realignment.
In a capital alliance between Sharp Corp and Pioneer Corp announced last week, Sharp will allot 10 million of its treasury shares to Pioneer for 19.7 billion yen.
Sharp, the world's third-largest liquid crystal display (LCD) TV supplier, in turn plans to use the fund to buy Pioneer shares. Pioneer is a maker of plasma TVs and car electronics.
NO SIGNS OF DIGICAM SLOWDOWN
In July, Canon posted an eight percent gain in quarterly profit due to robust demand for its digital cameras.
Osawa said demand for its digital cameras has remained robust and he sees no signs of slowdown ahead.
Canon aims to boost its digital camera sales by 14 percent from a year earlier to 24 million units in 2007.
We are aiming high and trying hard to exceed that target ... We don't even think about undershooting it, Osawa said.
Canon, which offers EOS digital single lens reflex (SLR) cameras and IXY compact digital cameras, is the world's largest digital camera maker competing with smaller rivals such as Sony and Olympus Corp.
It controls nearly half of the global digital SLR camera market, the fastest-growing and most lucrative segment of the digital camera industry, followed by Nikon Corp.
SLR cameras are high-end models with interchangeable lenses.
Underlining brisk digital camera demand, the Nikkei business daily said on Friday Nikon is likely to have earned an operating profit of about 63 billion yen in the six months through September, 6 billion yen higher than Nikon's own outlook.
Osawa, who is in charge of Canon's finance and accounting, said the company has likely hit its sales target for digital cameras, printers and copiers in the July-September quarter.
In printers and copiers, Canon's rivals include Xerox, Ricoh Co Ltd and Konica Minolta Holdings Inc.
Shares of Canon closed up 2.6 percent at 6,270 yen, outperforming both the wider market and its sector peers.
The benchmark Nikkei average ended down 0.28 percent, while Nikon fell 1.5 percent to 3,950 yen and Sony fell 0.4 percent to 5,570 yen.