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September 30, 2011 11:46 pm
Eastman Kodak became a penny stock as fresh concerns about whether the imaging pioneer could remain solvent led to a 54 per cent fall in its share price.
The company issued a statement after the market closed in New York on Friday saying it had no intention of filing for bankruptcy. But the damage had been done as its stock hit a historic low of 78 cents, having lost 97 per cent of its value over the past five years.
The lossmaking company has been restructuring its business and has said it is exploring the sale of about 1,100 digital imaging patents. It invented the digital camera in 1975.
Bloomberg reported on Friday that Kodak was weighing options including a bankruptcy filing because of concerns raised by possible bidders for its patent portfolio. Potential buyers had been reluctant to bid for fear of the purchase being classified as a “fraudulent transfer” should Kodak become insolvent, its report said, citing people with knowledge of the process. The Wall Street Journal reported that the company had hired the law firm Jones Day for restructuring advice.
The company said in its statement: “Kodak is committed to meeting all of its obligations and has no intention of filing for bankruptcy.” It added: “It is not unusual for a company in transformation to explore all options and to engage a variety of outside advisers, including financial and legal advisers. Jones Day is one of a number of advisers that Kodak is working with in that regard.”
Shares of the company, based in Rochester, New York, rose 30 per cent to $1.02 in after-hours trading on the news.
Kodak shares began a disastrous week by losing more than a quarter of their value as the market reacted on Monday to news that it was tapping $160m of a $400m credit facility, creating fears about its cash flow.
On Tuesday, Moody’s lowered Kodak’s bond rating. “We anticipate that Kodak will consume cash over the next year, thus weakening its liquidity profile,” it said.
While some analysts believe its patent portfolio could be worth $3bn, the rating agency said it was hard to predict or quantify what would come from licensing or selling it or from its use in continuing litigation against Apple and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion.
In the meantime, there was “intense competitive pressures in its broad digital portfolio and secular decline in its traditional film business”.
Kodak had $957m in cash at the end of June and has said it expects to end the year with $1.6bn-$1.7bn.
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