Business

Kodak emerges from bankruptcy with focus on commercial printing

Eastman Kodak Co, the photography pioneer which invented the digital camera, emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection yesterday, with plans to continue as a smaller digital imaging company.

The new Kodak will focus on commercial products such as high-speed digital printing technology and printing on flexible packaging for consumer goods.

"You can't imagine how much I have been waiting for this moment... This is a totally new company," its chief executive Antonio Perez said.

Kodak, founded in 1880 by George Eastman, was for years synonymous with household cameras and family snapshots. It filed a $6.75 billion bankruptcy in January 2012, weighed down by high pension costs and a years-long delay in embracing digital camera technology.

The new company expects to have $2.5 billion in revenue this year, Perez said.

Kodak once employed more than 60,000 people and was one of the largest employers in Rochester, New York, where it is based. Perez told reporters his most difficult task at the helm of the bankrupt company was dealing with hefty pension costs.

"I would not recommend anyone to file for Chapter 11, but if you have to deal with legacy costs, in my opinion, that's the only way you can do it," Perez said.

The company in April resolved a crucial dispute with its British pension fund, which dropped a $2.8 billion claim against Kodak. The fund also bought the company's personalised imaging and document imaging businesses, to be named Kodak Alaris, for $650 million.

The company said it has repaid its debtor-in-possession lenders and will receive about $406 million in new financing.

Perez, in charge since 2005, had been trying to steer the company towards consumer and commercial printers but was unable to stem the cash drain. The company has not posted an annual profit since 2007.

Chief executives are commonly ousted through the bankruptcy process, but Perez remains top boss at Kodak, a result he attributed to his ability to do "what I needed to do" during the restructuring.

"When I came here, the previous board... gave me three tasks – restructure the film business, create a completely new company that would have a future, and... eliminate or settle the very large legacy costs that we had from the old company," Perez said.

Kodak had hoped to fetch more than $2 billion through its bankruptcy process for about 1,100 patents related to digital imaging, but drew only $525 million for the portfolio, which experts said was a crucial reason it had to sell core businesses and reinvent itself.

"We're not the largest competitor in the market, but we're offering the biggest differentiation in the market," Perez said. - Reuters, September 4, 2013.

Comments