July 26, 2011 / 11:13 PM / 6 years ago

Patents take spotlight as Kodak posts losses

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Eastman Kodak Co posted another loss as the once-iconic photography company faced high raw material costs and struggled to shift its focus from film toward digital cameras and printers.

The company, which reported second-quarter results on Tuesday, maintained its forecast that it would generate $250 million to $350 million in cash this year from intellectual property licensing.

Many investors see Kodak's value in its portfolio of intellectual property, but Kodak provided few details about the direction of that portfolio on Tuesday.

Earlier this month, Kodak hired an adviser to help shop around 10 percent of its U.S. patent portfolio, in light of red-hot demand for tech patents.

"Given the heightened demand in the marketplace for premium intellectual property assets, we believe that the timing is right and that we have a great opportunity for these very valuable assets," Chief Executive Antonio Perez said on the conference call.

Last week, activist investor Carl Icahn urged Motorola to consider splitting off its patent portfolio to cash in on surging interest in technology patents. Valuable broadband and networking patents developed by bankrupt Nortel Networks fetched up to $4.5 billion in an auction in June.

While many analysts pressed Kodak's management on a conference call for more details on what it might do with its patents, CEO Perez declined to comment on the kind of transaction the company was pursuing or give a time frame for its strategy.

Kodak is figuring out what to do with its patents while it is tied up in costly and drawn-out battle with Apple Inc and Research in Motion in front of the International Trade Commission. Perez said Kodak's legal strategy to win in patent disputes is intact.

"This action does not change our intellectual property litigation strategy at the International Trade Commission or in the district courts, and we remain confident that the patents being litigated will be found to be valid and infringed," Perez said.

WEAKER RESULTS

Whether it is from a patent infringement lawsuit or a patent sale, Kodak could use the extra cash to soothe investor concerns about its string of losing results and the nearly 60 percent drop in Kodak's share price this year.

In the second quarter, Kodak's bottom line took a hit from rising costs of materials. The company's finance chief, Ann McCorvey, said on a conference call with analysts that higher silver and aluminum costs, components of Kodak products, affected its gross profit by $56 million.

Kodak reported a second-quarter loss from continuing operations of $179 million, or 67 cents per share, compared with a loss of $167 million, or 62 cents, a year earlier.

Adjusted for tax-related items, restructuring costs and pension-related costs, the company lost 62 cents a share. Analysts, on average, expected a loss of 67 cents.

All of Kodak's segments posted losses on Tuesday. The company's sales of film in the second quarter were $396 million, a 14 percent decline from last year.

Sales at its graphic communications group, which includes printers aimed at corporate clients, rose 4 percent to $685 million. That segment posted a loss of $45 million, however, as Kodak spent a lot on launching its commercial inkjet printers and on raw materials.

Sales at its consumer digital imaging group, which makes color printers, fell 8 percent to $404 million.

The company forecast total revenue of $6.4 billion to $6.7 billion for the year, which is slightly above analysts' average estimate. It also said it would have less cash than expected at the end of the year, between $1.6 billion and $1.7 billion. It had previous forecast an annual cash balance between $1.7 billion to $1.8 billion.

Kodak shares were down 3 cents at $2.30.

Editing by Derek Caney, Steve Orlofsky and Tim Dobbyn

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