TOKYO, Sept 28 Digital camera and office equipment maker Canon Inc said on Friday it may

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TOKYO, Sept 28 (Reuters) Digital camera and office equipment maker Canon Inc said on Friday it may buy back more of its own shares, adding to the $3.9 billion worth already repurchased so far this year.

Canon Managing Director Masahiro Osawa also told Reuters in an interview that he was confident the company would hit its target of selling 24 million digital cameras in 2007, and aims to surpass that target.

Canon has bought back a total 450 billion yen ($3.9 billion) worth of its own shares this year, or five percent of its total shares outstanding, after conducting its first-ever share repurchase in February.

''We are prepared to move quickly while watching changes in the business environment ... It's not like we have put an end (to share buybacks),'' Osawa said.

In the first four of the five share repurchases so far this year, Canon bought back 100 billion yen worth of shares each. But the amount fell to 50 billion yen in the latest one conducted earlier this month.

Osawa said building up a reserve of shares for future acquisitions is one reason for the recent share buybacks, but he did not specify actual targets.

In a capital alliance between Sharp Corp and Pioneer Corp announced last week, Sharp plans to allot 10 million of its treasury shares to Pioneer for 19.7 billion yen.

Shares of Canon, the world's largest digital camera maker competing with Sony Corp and Olympus Corp, were up 2.1 percent at 6,240 yen in afternoon trade, outperforming the Nikkei average, which was virtually flat.

Canon controls nearly half of the global digital single lens reflex (SLR) camera market, the fastest-growing and most lucrative segment of the digital camera industry, followed by Nikon Corp.

SLR cameras are high-end models with interchangeable lenses.

Nikon is likely to have earned an operating profit of about 63 billion yen in the six months through September, 6 billion yen higher than the precision equipment maker's own forecast, on strong digital camera sales, the Nikkei business daily said on Friday.

Osawa, who is in charge of Canon's finance and accounting, said the Tokyo-based company has likely hit its sales target for digital cameras, printers and copiers in the July-September quarter.

In printers and copiers, Canon's rivals include Xerox, Ricoh Co Ltd and Konica Minolta Holdings Inc.

REUTERS PBB DS1541

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