Will Zeiss acquire a 45% stake in Leica Camera AG? That’s one of the rumours buzzing around since Reuters reported that the Blackstone stake, acquired in 2011, might be up for grabs. Leica, which could have a potential value of up to €700m, is majority owned by ACM, the investment vehicle of the Kaufmann family, and any investor would have to seek synergy with the company’s chairman, Dr. Andreas Kaufmann. According to Reuters, Kaufmann has clear views on the future of Leica which extend into the next century.
Zeiss is said to be interested, but only if it could gain a majority stake — which seems highly unlikely given Dr. Kaufmann’s published views on retaining independence. A close connection with Zeiss would of course be attractive to Leica enthusiasts and consumers who would focus on the bringing together of these two iconic brands.
Zeiss retains a foothold in the world of Leica with its range of ZM M-mount lenses. A tie-up with Zeiss could be interesting for the enthusiast but is said to be very unlikely. Panasonic is another name that has been mentioned. There are already close relations between the two companies, not least in the production of micro four-thirds optics such as this Leica DG 12mm Summilux. Cooperation even extends to shared camera designs such as the C-Lux and D-Lux.
But an even better fit could be with Panasonic which already has a large development stake, rather than an investment, in the future of the German company. Again, though, such direct financial investment from Japan seems unlikely. If the Blackstone holding is to be sold it will most likely go to another investment company such as the China-based CDH Investments. It was rumoured last year that this company had expressed interest in acquiring the Blackstone stake but nothing materialised.
From a Leica user point of view it is comforting that the Kaufmann family, headed by man who has an emotional stake in the brand and is a true enthusiast, still retains the ultimate say so. Nevertheless, it is obvious that any change of ownership of 45% of the company is likely to have a significant influence on future policy.
This article Via Leica Rumours