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
Kodak’s website has a “Create” section stocked with all kinds of different photo projects for various purposes and occasions, from things for the home to gifts for the holidays.
Kodak’s stock plummeted again today, losing nearly 50% of its value and closing at $0.78 per share. The company was worth over $30 billion back in 1997, but todays stock price pegs the value at just $200 million. Prominent investors in the company are calling for its sale, but apparently there’s been hurdles in selling off its patent portfolio, and now bankruptcy might be on the horizon. A quote by a company spokesperson a couple days ago caught my eye: when asked why Kodak was struggling in the digital market, the response was,
We have one of the leading digital camera line-ups, including top-selling pocket video cameras with differentiated features, and a wide range of digital cameras that feature the unique “Share” button.
That kind of explains things, doesn’t it? The end appears to be very near…
Yesterday Kodak’s stock fell 64 cents, or 26.9%, to close at $1.74 — the lowest the stock price has been in 38 years. Investors were reacting to news that the company (which hasn’t netted a profit since 2007) had taken out a new $160 million loan. The plummeting value of the company is bad news for the photography pioneer but good news for companies that might be interested in buying it — a list that is rumored to include Google and Microsoft.
Kodak shares hit 38-year low on borrowing concerns [Reuters]
Update: Reader Christian Rudman points out that the reason for the loan wasn’t because Kodak’s cash reserves had run out. They last reported having nearly $1 billion on hand on June 30th.
A neat way to reuse film canisters is to poke holes in the lids and turn them into salt shakers, but some people argue that this may expose you to the harmful chemicals that leak out of film and into the plastic of the canister. It’s actually a question that Kodak has received a lot over the years, and they say it shouldn’t be a problem as long as you wash it out first:
To protect the film from contamination, Kodak quality standards require that the insides of the containers must be exceptionally clean. No “toxic” materials leach out or offgas from the containers themselves.
[...] Newspaper and magazine articles have mentioned “toxic residues” in the containers which might come from the film. There are none. The chemicals in a roll of film are embedded in the gelatin emulsion layers (about as thick as a human hair) and do not rub off the plastic film base.
[...] In summary: There are no “toxic residues” in Kodak film containers [...] if a customer chooses to use a Kodak film container for other than film storage, the container first should be thoroughly washed with soap and water.
They also state that if you (or your pet) accidentally eat some film itself, the main concern would be the film cutting your innards rather than chemical poisoning.
35mm Film Containers [Kodak]
Talk about a Kodak acquisition seems to be heating up as giant tech companies — including Google, Microsoft, and Apple — continue to engage in a patent-hoarding war. Just two days ago, Google agreed to acquire Motorola for $12.5 billion in order to snatch up the roughly 25,000 patents owned by the handset maker. Bloomberg writes that the patents held by Kodak may be worth five times more than the company itself, making it a prime acquisition target:
If Kodak’s patents can command $3 billion, acquiring the company would outweigh the liabilities [...] An acquirer would also be able to sell Kodak’s commercial and consumer printing businesses and the digital camera unit for at least $2.5 billion, he said.
Buyers may include Microsoft, the world’s largest software maker, Samsung, the Suwon, South Korea-based maker of Galaxy phones and tablet computers, and Google, according to Luskin.
That’s crazy — can you imagine Google or Microsoft buying Kodak to strip it of its patents and then selling off the corpse to some other camera maker? No wonder Kodak adopted a ‘poison pill’.
Kodak Worth Five Times More in Breakup With $3 Billion Patents [Bloomberg]
Image credit: Kodak by t-miki
Ever wonder how George Eastman chose the name “Kodak” for the company he founded?
The letter “K” had been a favorite of Eastman’s, he is quoted as saying, “it seems a strong, incisive sort of letter.” He and his mother devised the name Kodak with an anagram set. He said that there were three principal concepts he used in creating the name: it should be short, one cannot mispronounce it, and it could not resemble anything or be associated with anything but Kodak. [#]
In 1907, Kodak became the first company to integrate its name and look into a symbol, and starting in the 1930′s, Kodak adopted yellow and red as its “trade dress” colors.