Photography pioneer Kodak files for bankruptcy

Thu Jan 19, 2012 4:19pm EST
 
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By Jonathan Stempel and Liana B. Baker

(Reuters) - Eastman Kodak Co, the photography icon that invented the hand-held camera, has filed for bankruptcy protection and plans to shrink significantly, capping a prolonged plunge for one of America's best-known companies.

The Chapter 11 filing makes Kodak one of the biggest corporate casualties of the digital age, after it failed to quickly embrace more modern technologies such as the digital camera -- ironically, a product it invented.

Kodak once dominated its industry, and its film was the subject of a popular 1973 song, "Kodachrome," by Paul Simon.

The bankruptcy may give Kodak, which traces its roots to 1880, the ability to find buyers for some of its 1,100 digital patents, a major portion of its value. Kodak now employs 17,000 people worldwide, down from 63,900 just nine years ago.

"It is a very sad day even though we had anticipated it," said Shannon Cross, an analyst at Cross Research who has had a "sell" rating on the company since 2001. "If it emerges, it will be a much smaller entity."

According to papers filed with the U.S. bankruptcy court in Manhattan, Kodak had about $5.1 billion of assets and $6.75 billion of liabilities at the end of September.

In court documents, Chief Financial Officer Antoinette McCorvey said, without elaborating, that Kodak plans to sell "significant assets" during the bankruptcy. Non-U.S. units are not part of the Chapter 11 case.

Kodak also said it obtained a $950 million, 18-month credit line from Citigroup Inc so it can keep operating and avoid having to liquidate. It said it expects to complete the bankruptcy process in 2013.   Continued...

 
<p>A Kodak filter box is seen in a photo store in London January 19, 2012. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth</p>