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Canon, the world's largest digital camera maker, said yesterday that China would contribute one fifths to the company's global digital camera revenue in the next couple of years, since the global economic crisis had not impacted the country's digital camera market as much as earlier estimated.

Masaya Maeda, chief executive of Canon's Image Communication Products Operations, said China was becoming the key market globally for digital camera makers, even as global shipments are expected to drop by 7 percent this year due to the economic slowdown.

"Although it too has been impacted by the financial crisis, China's digital market is still on a rapid growth path," said Masaya Maeda. "I think, by 2012, the country will be very close to taking up 20 percent of our global digital revenue."

Canon is the biggest player in the domestic digital camera market, with a nearly 30 percent share. It is followed by Sony, Samsung and Nikon, according to domestic research firm CCID Consulting.

During the past few years, the company had recorded nearly 30 percent growth in the country, making China Canon's third largest market after the United States and Japan.

But the financial crisis cut Canon's net profit by 37 percent last year. Shrinking profit margins, a stronger yen and plunging demand in mature markets have certainly not helped the world's largest camera maker.

According to an earlier report from research firm GFK China, digital camera shipments in China were predicted to decrease by 3 to 4 percent this year due to the economic downturn. This was in sharp contrast to the 13 percent growth seen last year.

Hideki Ozawa, president of Canon China, said yesterday that he was still confident that the company's business in China could grow by 20 percent this year. "Although our business growth slowed a little bit in the first half of this year, I think we could still grow over 20 percent in the second half of this year as China's economy continues to recover," he said.

Nikon, another major Japanese digital camera maker, also said its business in China was not impacted by the economic slowdown as much as earlier expected. The company said last year it took up 10 percent share in compact digital cameras and 40 percent in the single-lens reflex camera market in the country and planned to gain a larger market share in China this year.

Li Ying, general manager of digital camera department at Beijing Huaqi Information Digital Technology, one of China's largest consumer electronics product vendors, said his company plans to take up to 5 percent market share in the local digital camera market this year, surpassing companies like Fujifilm, Panasonic and Kodak.

He said his company's digital camera shipments more than doubled in the first half and it planned to gain more market share by the end of this year.

Ozawa said Canon plans to launch more new products in the next half of this year and will focus on marketing to China's post-1980s generation consumers, who have showed great purchasing power.

He said the company had embedded more active elements in its latest advertisement, which he hoped would "revive the market".

This year, Canon has released over 23 new digital cameras in the domestic market. The company also launched a marketing campaign and invested a great deal of money in setting up huge posters in the metro systems in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou to stimulate consumer demand.

Tatsuo Yoshioka, vice-president of Canon China, said the total shipments of digital cameras in China only reached about 35 million last year, much less than the number of televisions and mobile phones sold in the country. He expected digital camera shipments to reach 100 to 200 million in China in the near future.

(China Daily August 21, 2009)

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