Sony, Fujifilm reportedly considering bidding for Toshiba's $3B+ imaging device unit

Infinix-i X-ray angiography system--Courtesy of Toshiba

Sony ($SNE) and Fujifilm are considering making a bid on Toshiba's medical equipment unit, which generates more than $3 billion in annual sales, raising the prospect of a bidding war for expansion or entry into the imaging arena.

Private equity player Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, along with Hitachi, Canon ($CAJ), GE Healthcare ($GE) and Samsung, are also possible suitors, according to business website Nikkei Asian Review. Bidding for at least 51% of Toshiba Medical Systems will begin in February, and the winning company will be selected by March.

Toshiba Medical Systems consists of imaging devices for CT scans, MRIs, ultrasounds and X-rays according to the company website. It leads the Japanese market with a 30% share, and is fourth worldwide, with a global market share of 10% on earnings of ¥405.6 billion ($3.37 billion) in sales in FY 2014.

With annual sales of about ¥400 billion ($3.39 billion), Fujifilm's device unit is also an imaging player, and makes devices for computed radiography, digital radiography and digital mammography, among other markets. But the Nikkei Asian Review says that there is little overlap between the two companies' devices.

Meanwhile, Sony is a newcomer to the device world. It has entered the genome analysis market, and has an alliance with endoscope maker Olympus. Purchasing Toshiba Medical Systems would enable Sony to easily exceed its goal of ¥200 billion ($1.69 billion) in medical sales by 2020.

A cash infusion from the sale of its medical equipment unit would help struggling Toshiba recover from a devastating accounting scandal. It forecasts a ¥550 billion ($4.6 billion) annual loss due in part to restructuring costs.

Toshiba Medical Equipment is expected to be the only mainline business unit to report an operating profit, according to the Nikkei Asian Review.

- read the article in the Nikkei Asian Review