Japan's Olympus said on Tuesday that it would give its 2011/12 earnings outlook by the end of June and that it could pull its troubled imaging division back into profit within 12-18 months.

British COO Michael Woodford, who took over as President and COO at the endoscope and camera company on April 1, said in an interview he was optimistic about prospects for the current year, after profits fell 41 percent to 35.3 billion yen ($437 million) last year.

Woodford, 50, known for cutting costs and hiking profits at the company's European operations, said the slump to a 15 billion yen loss in the camera division for the year to March 2011 was unacceptable.

He said he planned to cut costs and hike unit sales and unit prices to return to the black. Olympus sold 8.1 million cameras in the year to March, but expects to sell more this year.

Production in the profitable endoscope business was hit by supply chain woes in April and May following Japan's March 11 earthquake and tsunami, but will recover by the summer and the company plans to make up the lost production in July and August, Woodford said.

The firm declined to give earnings guidance when it announced its annual results last week, because of uncertainties over the impact of the disasters.

Woodford joins Nissan's Carlos Ghosn and Sony's Howard Stringer as one of the small number of non-Japanese to run a company in the country.

($1 = 80.795 Japanese Yen)

(Reporting by Isabel Reynolds; Editing by Joseph Radford)