Eastman Kodak to sell imaging units to fund turnaround

Bloomberg

Sat, Aug 25, 2012 - Page 15

Bankrupt photography pioneer Eastman Kodak Co said it would sell its consumer film, photo kiosks and commercial scanner businesses as it continues an extended effort to auction its digital-imaging patents.

Lazard Ltd is advising on sales of the units, known as personal imaging and document imaging, which are targeted for completion in the first half of next year, the Rochester, New York-based company said in a statement on Thursday. The transactions would leave Kodak selling only inkjet printers to consumers, and film only to commercial customers, including the movie industry.

The patents for sale relate to the capture, manipulation and sharing of digital images, while the kiosks include those used by consumers and by theme parks to capture passengers on rides. Kodak is selling the imaging units and patents to fund a turnaround after seeking Chapter 11 protection in January. At the same time, it is pursuing a plan to shrink the company and focus less on photography and more on commercial, packaging and functional printing and enterprise services.

“We have to make some tough choices to build our future and this is one of those choices,” CEO Antonio Perez said on a conference call. “Kodak’s goal is not simply to emerge, but obviously to emerge as a profitable, sustainable company and today’s actions are moving us decisively along that path.”

Perez is pushing ahead with the digital patents sale amid legal fights with device makers, including Apple Inc, over the ownership and validity of some of the patents. As bidding continued beyond initial deadlines, Kodak has said it may not sell the patents if retaining them is “in the best interests of the estate.”

In court documents, Kodak has said the patents may be worth US$2.21 billion to US$2.57 billion, based on an estimate by patent advisory firm 284 Partners LLC. Kodak said it has generated more than US$3 billion in revenue by licensing some of the digital-imaging patents to users, including Samsung Electronics Co, LG Electronics Inc, Google Inc’s Motorola Mobility unit and Nokia Oyj.

“The path to emergence is becoming clearer for us,” Perez said. “Our patent auction continues, and we are still engaged in discussions around the potential sale of our digital imaging portfolio. Going in we expected this to be a complex process and it has been all of that and more.”