It's now official -- Antonio Perez has effectively driven Eastman Kodak
Eastman Kodak officially sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection early this morning, citing years of falling sales and a deterioration in its film business as the reason for its failure. The company has obtained a $950 million bridge loan from Citigroup
Today's filing seemed inevitable to many, including myself. I've maintained a CAPScall of underperform on Kodak for quite some time, and while today's actions are bittersweet, it's the right move by management. Questions still remain, though, as to whether Kodak can, even after restructuring its debts and adapting its business strategy, keep up with its larger foes or if it will, like many others of late, wind up right back in bankruptcy court in a few years' time. Here are a few questions that have to be on everyone's minds.
Will Antonio Perez keep his job as the head of Eastman Kodak?
Personally, I think shareholders should have shown up with pitchforks years ago and ousted the stubborn leader of this once-proud company. Under Perez's leadership (though I deign to call it that) Kodak lost money in all but two years, and fiscal 2011 was on pace to become the sixth consecutive year of revenue declines. Perez pigheadedly drove Kodak into the printing business, alluding back to his days as corporate vice president at Hewlett-Packard
Can Kodak compete on price?
I'm not even sure that Kodak can reasonably make enough of a profit on its cameras to make a dent in its debt even after it's restructured. It's clearly too early to speculate on what a debt restructuring will entail, but the heavily commoditized pricing of Kodak's digital technologies will make it increasingly difficult for the company to turn any sort of profit.
Will it sell any of its digital imaging patents?
I think this is on everyone's mind right now and it'll remain the hot-button issue throughout Kodak's bankruptcy proceedings. In October, Kodak agreed to license 50 of its imaging patents to IMAX
Will the current shares be worth anything?
This is the only answer I can give you with near certainty -- NO! There is rarely any value left for common shareholders during bankruptcy proceedings, and I don't see Kodak as being an exception to this rule. As of its most recently reported results, Kodak boasted $900 million in cash and $1.57 billion in debt, leaving the company decisively negative in the shareholder equity column and wiping out any chance for the common shareholder to get any value for his or her shares.
What to do now
Now is the time to watch and wait to see what Kodak will do to come back as a leaner form of itself and attempt to regain at least some of its old glory. If you are a shareholder I see no reason to continue to hold your shares, and if you're an outsider looking in, keep your money far, far away from Kodak shares. I suspect they will soon be delisted, and are what I would deem worthless.
Do you have an old Kodak memory you'd like to share? Post it or any other thoughts you have about this once-great company in the comments section below.
Also, if you're growing weary of chasing after once-great businesses that are now in decline, feel free to buck that trend by downloading our latest special report, "3 American Companies Set to Dominate the World." This report highlights three companies hand-picked by our top analysts that are kicking butt and taking names in the emerging markets. Best of all, this report is completely free to you for a limited time, so don't miss out!