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To really understand a stock, you just have to get down and dirty, break out your pencil, and really weigh the risk-versus-reward potential of the company you're following. I propose we take a closer look at the good and the bad at Eastman Kodak (NYSE: EK ) , to see whether the stock is a good value or a potential money pit.
I know what you're thinking and yes, there really are good points to be made for Eastman Kodak. For instance, inkjet printers are now Eastman Kodak's bread-and-butter business, and growth in that segment appears to be gaining momentum. Eastman has been going toe-to-toe with Lexmark (NYSE: LXK ) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) , emerging with 23% commercial and 26% consumer growth in its inkjet business based on its most recent quarterly report.
Perhaps Eastman Kodak's truest wild card lies in its intellectual property value. Eastman Kodak recently struck deals to cross-license its technology with Samsung and LG Electronics. It's also pursuing patent litigation against Apple and Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) for the use of its photography technology in smartphones. Revenue from intellectual property pacts could be sizable, but unfortunately, many of these disputes still remain unresolved, and future cash flow is hard to predict.
Eastman Kodak keeps holding onto the notion that the world is flat and traditional film is still a profitable business. Its failure to innovate and integrate digital technology into its arsenal of products in a timely manner has left it way behind the curve. Competitors Canon (NYSE: CAJ ) and Sony (NYSE: SNY ) have left Eastman Kodak in the dust, resulting in full-year losses in four of the past five years.
The future of Eastman Kodak's pension fund presents an even more disturbing problem. As if $1.25 billion in debt were not enough to worry about, fellow Fool Rich Duprey reminds us that low interest rates and unrealistic investment return expectations could result in more than a $1 billion pension shortfall. Although Eastman is generating positive free cash flow over the last four quarters, it's nowhere near enough to make a dent in these figures.
Eastman Kodak's valuation essentially boils down to one question: What is the Kodak name worth, in relation to a lagging business model and the potential of intellectual property pacts in the future? I still feel there's value left in its brand recognition, and however tedious they might be, patent infringement cases have thus far tended to end in Kodak's favor. This stock is by no means a slam dunk; its ongoing turnaround may never materialize. But after reviewing its potential, I'm going to change course and admit that Eastman Kodak may yet have a few tricks up its sleeve.
Do you have an opinion on any of the companies mentioned above? Let's hear about it in the comments section!