Eastman Kodak: Watching The Slow Demise Of A Once Iconic Company

| About: Eastman Kodak (KODK)

When I bought my first camera for a photography class way back in 1995, I bought one of the first digital cameras to hit the market and it was a Kodak DC40 Point-and-Shoot. At the time the company's stock traded around $60 a share. Two years later the stock traded as high as $94.75.

When I first bought Kodak stock in July of 2009, I paid about $3.00 a share (those shares are long gone). I have been successfully day-trading the stock for the last few months, along with many computer-assisted program traders, as the stock has been relatively range-bound, trading between the mid to low $1s.

Over the last decade, the stock has lost 98% of its value, sinking from its 10 year high of $41.08 to where it closed yesterday at 95 cents.

EK 10 Year Chart

EK 10 Year Chart
(Click to enlarge)

It is kind of sad when you consider the company's rich American history. George Eastman, who founded the company in Rochester, New York in 1891, is probably rolling in his grave as the company that introduced the first color film for amateur videographers in 1928 and subsequently brought to market the easy-to-use Instamatic camera line in 1963, which went on to sell more than 50 million units, is falling apart and selling and licensing select patents to stay afloat long enough to avoid bankruptcy and become prosperous once more.

Despite the company's many successes over the years it is now slowly dying as the consumer market has moved away from traditional film and flocked towards digital cameras but, thus far, it has managed to avoid bankruptcy. That cannot be said for many of its long-time competitors.

The primary revenue drivers for the company these days are its color printers, ink cartridges and laser projection technologies. It recently hired a restructuring firm, Jones Day, that is best known for handling bankruptcy filings. This action did nothing more than increase investors' concerns. The stock briefly dropped to 54 cents on that news and went on to rebound back above $1.00 when it was announced by the company that it did not intend to file for bankruptcy protection. Four days ago, concerns about bankruptcy were further alleviated as the company swapped restructuring firms, dropping Jones Day for Sullivan & Cromwell, which is better known for its successful restructuring efforts.

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What's next for the scrambling company?

There seems to be little confidence, given the company's poor financial condition, that any restructuring efforts will be successful. Many believe its rich patent portfolio holds a value well north of $1B. Disgruntled investors have been pressuring the company, with its current market cap of $226M, to sell itself off in its entirety. So far it appears as though there is little interest, but many investors are hopeful a deal will occur before the company's stock can make its way to the pink sheets. It appears as though (one way or another) the once iconic Eastman Kodak, as we now know it, will eventually cease to exist.

My feeling is that someone will eventually buy EK for its patents in the $750M-$900M range though, for now, the stock is little more than a day-trading vehicle with which I may or may not continue to play.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

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