In yet another business move no doubt influenced by the rise of the all-mighty smartphone camera, a “source familiar with the plan” has told Reuters that Panasonic aims to sell camera and battery manufacturer Sanyo to a Japanese equity fund by the end of March.
Over the last couple of months, a political skirmish between Japan and China over the ownership of a set of islands has caused anti-Japanese protests all across China, affecting many of the Japanese manufacturing facilities. Some companies — most notably Panasonic and Canon — were forced to shut down operations and evacuate their premises as a result of the violent protests. Things got so bad that Chinese photographers had to camouflage their Japanese-brand cameras with red tape and Chinese flags.
Despite the political atmosphere in the world’s most populous nation, Canon has China squarely in its sights as it plans its next moves for international expansion.
Christopher Bonanos, author of Instant: The Story of Polaroid, has authored a lengthy piece for the Washington Post on what Kodak — and whoever buys its film lines — can learn from the fall of Polaroid. The article offers some interesting facts about, and insights into, the film photography industry:
Yes, Polaroid and Kodak made hundreds of millions of cameras. But that was never their principal business: The hardware existed mostly to sell film. This is what business-school professors call the razor-blade model, pioneered by Gillette: The razor is sold at minimal profit or even given away, and the blades sell for years afterward at a healthy profit margin. Amazon does the same with the Kindle, selling it cheaply to encourage enthusiastic e-book buying.
More than anything else, Polaroid’s desire in the 1990s to keep film sales up and film factories humming was what killed the company. When it should’ve been diving into a variety of digital businesses, Polaroid doubled down on analog-film production, building new production equipment and trying to economize.
The business model Bonanos describes is also known as freebie marketing.
What Kodak could still learn from Polaroid [The Washington Post]
Image credit: razor blade by scottfeldstein
All good things come to an end. Bad ones do too. After denying rumors last month that it would soon be shutting down, the over-funded photo-sharing app Color has now announced that it will indeed be shuttering its service.
Respected stock market analysis website Seeking Alpha doesn’t think too highly of the way Kodak CEO Antonio M. Perez is leading the beleaguered photo company:
It would not be the first time that Mr. Perez, who became CEO of Kodak in 2005, has attempted to receive a large payment for his services to the detriment of his company. We had concerns about Kodak’s compensation policies in May 2010, when we noted practices such as Mr. Perez’s having amended (for the fourth time) his initial employment agreement and received an ad hoc award of 500,000 stock options at a low exercise price of $4.54 in October 2009 for “retention purposes.” Although Mr. Perez’s compensation decreased by around 55% year over year to $5.7 million in 2010, it remained grossly disproportionate compared to those of his subordinates, given that the median pay for Kodak’s other named executive officers was only $1.1 million. This suggests that Mr. Perez’s board – which he also chairs – allowed him so much freedom that he was able to prioritize his own interest ahead of his staff, customers and investors.
Earlier this month, Kodak was given permission to stop providing health and welfare benefits to tens of thousands of retirees. The move came just months after the company asked for permission to hand out $13.5 million in bonuses to 300 executives and employees.
Kodak’s CEO Prioritizes His Compensation Even Amid Bankruptcy [Seeking Alpha]
Kodak has finally been thrown a lifeline. Yesterday, the beleaguered photography company announced that it had convinced banks to loan it $793 million in order to climb out of bankruptcy by the first half of 2013. The loan agreement comes with one big catch: Kodak must be able to sell its extensive collection of patents for at least half a billion dollars.
Yahoo made some management moves a couple of weeks ago, with VP Adam Cahan becoming head of the company’s mobile endeavors and its photo-sharing service, Flickr. Cahan was previously the founder and CEO of IntoNow, a 12-week-old company that Yahoo acquired last year for $20 to $30 million.
The Olympus scandal that rocked the business world last year was one of the biggest cases of financial fraud ever seen in corporate Japan. The Economist has published an interesting piece on why Japanese capitalism might not learn from the mistake:
At one point Olympus’s shares lost about 80% of their value, yet its institutional shareholders uttered not “one word” of criticism against the company’s board [...] For many, the Olympus scandal highlighted the need for more checks and balances. Mr Woodford (pictured), whose angry memoir is to be published this month, likens Japanese boardrooms to “Alice in Wonderland”. They need more assertive shareholders and regulators, and more independent directors, he reckons.
Keidanren, Japan’s big-business lobby, appears to have drawn the opposite conclusion. Olympus had three external directors, a high number for Japan [...] The problem, in Keidanren’s view, was too much external scrutiny.
After the United States was rocked by its own series of financial scandals in the early 2000s, the government increased regulation by passing the controversial Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002.
After the Olympus scandal, Japan Inc wants less scrutiny [The Economist]
Image credit: Photo illustration based on The Donatello Boardroom by ShellVacationsHospitality and Search. by Jeffrey Beall
Last week, Canon reported its latest quarter’s financial results, which included some big double-digit drops in revenue and profit. Now it’s Nikon’s turn to show the world how it’s finances are doing. The company reported its latest quarterly results yesterday, and the numbers are decent.
It seems like Kodak is having a hard time figuring out how to getting its finances back in the black. Kodak has announced its 3rd quarter financial results, and the numbers aren’t pretty — they’re downright ugly, actually. Despite raking in $1 billion over the three-month period ending in September (down 19% from the same period last year), the company still posted a net loss of $312 million (up from a loss of $222M during the same period last year).