Kodak may face cash crisis if patent sales fail

Kodak 5500 color all-in-one printer Kodak flagged up rising printer sales as a highlight of its latest earnings report

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Eastman Kodak has warned it must raise new funds to survive the next year.

The 131-year old photography firm said it may raise the cash through patent sales or by taking on additional debt.

The US firm revealed that its cash balance at the end of September totalled $862m (£537m) after it ran up a $222m operating loss over the preceding three months.

Experts said Kodak took too long to move from its traditional film business into digital cameras.

The firm does stress that its inkjet printer and inks unit is performing well. Third quarter sales were 44% higher than the previous year.

But Kodak warned it may need to slow investment in the printing business "if liquidity needs require".

Patents

The firm announced in July that it was exploring selling or licensing around 1,100 of its digital imaging patents - around 10% of its library.

 

The company said it had no intention of filing for bankruptcy, but some experts believe its fate depends on a sale of its innovation rights.

"Kodak's at a point where one of two things have to happen," said Shannon Cross of Cross Research.

"Either they have to raise more money or they have to complete the sale. Otherwise, they're not going to be able to continue."

However Kodak's chief executive, Antonio Perez, said investors should not read too much into the company's cash balance warning, which it had been required to file under US law.

"These requirement statements should not be misunderstood in any way as dampening the optimism our ability to complete the sale of our digital imaging patent portfolio, which is very high," he said.

Missed chance

However, one former executive called for a more radical restructure.

"I think you are going to see Kodak getting broken up and the various parts of the company will go to where they add the most value and therefore Kodak captures the most value for creditors and stock holders," the firm's former vice president Don Strickland told the BBC.

Kodak Easyshare camera Kodak's balance sheet might have been stronger had it started making digital cameras earlier

Mr Strickland left the company in 1993 after he failed to get permission to release a digital camera. He claimed the firm's current problems could have been avoided.

"We developed the world's first consumer digital camera and Kodak could have launched it in 1992.

"We could not get approval to launch or sell it because of fear of the cannibalisation of film... a huge opportunity missed."

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