The Economist has a fascinating piece looking at the similarities and differences between Kodak and Fujifilm, two juggernauts of film photography that took different paths when digital photography came around:
While Kodak suffers, its long-time rival Fujifilm is doing rather well. The two firms have much in common. Both enjoyed lucrative near-monopolies of their home markets: Kodak selling film in America, Fujifilm in Japan. A good deal of the trade friction during the 1990s between America and Japan sprang from Kodak’s desire to keep cheap Japanese film off its patch.
Both firms saw their traditional business rendered obsolete. But whereas Kodak has so far failed to adapt adequately, Fujifilm has transformed itself into a solidly profitable business, with a market capitalisation, even after a rough year, of some $12.6 billion to Kodak’s $220m. Why did these two firms fare so differently?
Last Friday, Kodak filed a lawsuit against Fujifilm alleging that the company had infringed on Kodak’s digital photography patents.
The last Kodak moment? [The Economist]
Image credit: Ammo for 合歡&清境 by 今 ゆっくりと 歩いていこう
CNNMoney has an interesting article on how the Kodak brand will likely survive even if the company itself declares bankruptcy:
Many potential buyers are also weighing the value of Kodak’s brand-name since there’s been a lot of talk that it may consider filing for bankruptcy. For now the company plans to restructure out of court.
Kodak’s brand name (not its patents) could easily generate more than double Polaroid’s sales price, said Jamie Salter, the CEO of Authentic Brands. “There are a lot of categories that Kodak could attach its name to. People would feel very comfortable using Kodak paper,” said Salter.
Like Polaroid, Kodak has brand cache all over the world offering potential buyers the opportunity to tap global markets.
The Polaroid brand name sold for $88 million in 2009 after Polaroid the company declared bankruptcy in 2008.
Why bankruptcy isn’t a brand killer [CNNMoney]
Image credit: Kodak Tri-X Pan 400 by Rubin 110
Kodak might be on its deathbed, but that’s not stopping the company from launching a new volley of lawsuits over patent infringements. Already trying to milk $1 billion from Apple, the company has filed new lawsuits against smartphone makers Apple and HTC, alleging that Apple violated four of its patents and HTC five. The lawsuits center around technology for transferring photos on and off devices. While today’s lawsuits might simply be a creative marketing effort in Kodak’s attempt to sell off its patent portfolio, the market seems pleased with it: the stock price jumped nearly 40% today.
(via Foss Patents via Engadget)
Image credit: Two Against One by Alistair Knock
Kodak was warned by the New York Stock Exchange yesterday that its stock will be delisted if its price remains under $1 for the next six months. The stock has had an average closing price of below $1 for over 30 consecutive days now, and is no longer compliant with the NYSE’s requirement for minimum share price. Sadly, the company might not last another six months: the Wall Street Journal reported today that the company is now preparing to file for bankruptcy, which will likely happen in the coming weeks unless the company succeeds in its efforts to sell its 1,100 digital imaging patents. The revelation added insult to injury as the stock price plummeted another 28% today.
Image credit: NYSE by brian glanz
Kodak is burning through $70 million every month and desperately trying to stay alive by selling off divisions that other companies are willing to buy. After selling off its sensor business last month, the company announced yesterday that it has agreed to sell off its gelatin business (called) Eastman Gelatine) to Rousselot, the world’s leader gelatin producer. Gelatin is one of the main components used in photographic film and paper, so this certainly can’t be good news for Kodak’s future in film photography. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
(via The Wall Street Journal)
Image credit: Sometimes we shoot Kodak! by ℍmoong
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Kodak may be “a shutter click from extinction”:
Once ranked among the bluest of blue chips, Kodak shares sell today at close to $1. Kodak’s chairman has been denying that the company is contemplating a bankruptcy filing with such vehemence that many believe Chapter 11 must lurk just around the corner.
The Rochester, N.Y., company said it had $862 million in cash on hand as of Sept. 30, but at the rate it’s losing money from operations (more than $70 million a month), that hoard would barely last a year.
No wonder the company is trying to find someone to purchase its online photo sharing service for hundreds of millions. Even if it did manage to find a buyer, the sale would only buy a few more months of life unless the company can figure out how to stop the bleeding.
Kodak’s long fade to black [Los Angeles Times]
Image credit: Money Going Up in Smoke by Images_of_Money
Earlier this month, Kodak sold off its sensor business in an effort to raise some cash to stay alive and hopefully turn things around. Now the company is looking to get even leaner by selling off its online photo sharing business. Photo sharing? Kodak? Yup, it’s called Kodak Gallery. While it’s not surprising that the camera maker has online services, what might be surprising is the price they’re looking to sell it for: according to the Wall Street Journal, it’s in the “hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Kodak first jumped into the online photo sharing and printing game in 2001, when it purchased Ofoto for somewhere south of $100 million. The service reportedly amassed 75 million customers worldwide and was bringing in $150 million in annual revenue at its peak. However, it has never been profitable and last month saw only 1.5 million visitors. In addition to the service itself, Kodak is selling off some of its valuable patents related to uploading and sharing photos online.
Kodak Seeks to Sell Online Photo-Sharing Business Kodak Gallery (via Reuters)
After arriving late to the digital photography party, Kodak took another step away from the market yesterday by selling off its sensor business to CA-based firm Platinum Equity. The sale of Kodak Image Sensor Solutions (KISS) — which includes the company’s 263,000 square foot facility in Rochester — will hopefully give Kodak the boost of cash it needs to avoid bankruptcy and turn into a healthy business. Kodak sensors are found in a number of popular cameras, including the Leica M9 and S2.
The company is also looking into selling a chunk of its patents to raise more cash, which will help it in its current efforts to transform into a printer and ink company.
(via Business Wire via 1001 Noisy Cameras)
Kodak’s fall from grace is an interesting case study that modern day companies can learn from. Even though the world’s first digital camera was invented by one of its engineers, the company was unwilling to cannibalize its film business that, at the time, was making money hand over fist. By the time digital cameras started catching on, Kodak had missed the boat.
Over the past year, major movie camera manufacturers ARRI, Panavision and Aaton have all quietly stopped manufacturing film cameras — a tough blow to film, and grim news for film photographers. Debra Kaufman over at Creative COW writes,
Can the continued production of film stock survive the twin disappearance of film acquisition and distribution? Veteran industry executive Rob Hummel [...] recalls when, as head of production operations, he was negotiating the Kodak deal for DreamWorks Studios. “At the time, the Kodak representative told me that motion pictures was 6 percent of their worldwide capacity and 7 percent of their revenues,” he recalls. “The rest was snapshots. In 2008 motion pictures was 92 percent of their business and the actual volume hasn’t grown. The other business has just disappeared.”
Panavision’s Executive VP Phil Radin states that, “Film will be around as long as Kodak and Fuji believe they can make money at it.” With their revenues from the movie industry drying up, Kodak and Fuji are going to have a harder time keeping their film businesses profitable. If you want to see film survive, then you can do your part by buying film and encouraging others to shoot analog as well!
Film Fading to Black (via TechCrunch)
Image credit: PANAFLEX PLATINUM STUDIO by openreel