The Week in Imaging: Toshiba Nuclear Woes & Toshiba Tec; Ricoh Product Refresh; More

Photo credit: Kathy Wirth

This week saw a new chapter in the ongoing state of Japanese copier/MFP vendors. First, virtually all of these vendors are conglomerates that are highly diversified, with products ranging from semiconductors, to production printers, to high-end medical equipment, consumer products, and even robots.

While this diversified strategy provides insurance against potential weakening of a particular product line (such as digital cameras), this week it became apparent that sometimes even a huge conglomerate can spread itself out much too thin with ventures that could become too expensive and risky.

We’re specifically talking about Japan’s Toshiba Corporation here, a company that continues to produce many excellent imaging products for use in the office-imaging industry. This week, however, it was revealed that Toshiba Chairman Shigenori Shiga is resigning to as a bid to take responsibility for problems that will result in huge losses for Westinghouse, Toshiba’s U.S. nuclear unit. This body blow comes while Toshiba is in the throes of a major executive accounting scandal, and its consumer product divisions are taking hits, particularly in the computer and TV markets.

Note that Toshiba expects to right its nuclear division even though Japan’s entire nuclear sector was thrown into upheaval after multiple meltdowns of reactors at a power plant in the Fukushima prefecture triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan (shown below).

While Toshiba expects to restructure its nuclear business and has promised a general financial recovery by March, it’s offered no details about its recovery strategy. As we’ve reported before, several Toshiba business units may be up for sale, including Toshiba Tec, which makes printers and copier/MFPs. Toshiba owns a 50-percent stake in Toshiba Tec, and Toshiba Tec owns Toshiba America Business Systems (TABS). Is this necessarily all dire news for Toshiba Tec and TABS? Of course not, but it is something to be keep an eye on.

Also of note this week, was a major product refresh from Ricoh USA:

Among the new products from Ricoh USA this week were some nice low-end, A4 desktop printers and MFPs, all with attractive pricing. We’ve noted previously that over the years, we’ve extensively worked with Ricoh, and have come to admire its product offerings. However, its consumer-marketing efforts have historically been lackluster, and its extensive dealer network that depends on the sales and service of its high-end A3 MFPs have been loathe to sell the high-quality, but low-margin Ricoh printers. In other words, in spite of their attractiveness, it’s likely that these new products will gather a considerable amount of dust on shelves in the United States, but will probably be more effective elsewhere in more cost-conscious regions. And, on the other hand, note that a few years ago, Ricoh USA explained that, at least in part, it saw some of these low-end products as a way to get the Ricoh brand name out there, as the Ricoh name is far less recognized than competitors’ Xerox and HP brand names in the United States.

For Ricoh dealers, the good news this week were a host of new dealer products, including a Ricoh refresh of black-and-white A3 MFPs and high-volume A3 color printers, and, for those selling production printing, a new color inkjet platform.

Financial News

  • Toshiba Delays Financial Report, Chairman Steps Down Over Losses in Nuclear Business – Read more here.
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