Struggling Kodak film group split up, shares soar

Tue Jan 10, 2012 5:40pm EST

Eastman Kodak black and white film, negatives, film development reels and black and white photographic prints are shown January 6, 2012 in this studio illustration in Washington. Eastman Kodak Co announced a new business structure on January 10, 2012, that eliminates its film group as the once-iconic photography company tries to refocus as a digital company to help fend off financial difficulties.  REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Eastman Kodak black and white film, negatives, film development reels and black and white photographic prints are shown January 6, 2012 in this studio illustration in Washington. Eastman Kodak Co announced a new business structure on January 10, 2012, that eliminates its film group as the once-iconic photography company tries to refocus as a digital company to help fend off financial difficulties.

Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

(Reuters) - Eastman Kodak Co announced a new business structure on Tuesday that divides its film group into its two other business units as the once-iconic photography company tries to refocus as a digital company to help fend off financial difficulties.

Its shares jumped after the news and closed up 50 percent at 60 cents.

Separately, on Tuesday the company filed a lawsuit against Apple Inc, accusing it of infringing four patents related to digital camera images. It also filed a related complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission against Taiwan's HTC Corp.

Kodak said Apple is infringing on the patents by selling and importing mobile camera phones, tablets and other devices such as the iPad 2, the iPod touch and various iPhones.

Patents are an important component of Kodak's business. It is now trying to sell a group of patents to raise money.

In a news release on its restructuring, Kodak said it will create two business segments from the current three. Phillip Faraci will head the commercial segment, while Laura Quatela will head the consumer segment. Both executives will have the title of co-president and chief operating officer and will report to Chairman and Chief Executive Antonio Perez.

Kodak said it will make changes to its financial reporting starting in the first quarter to reflect the new structure. It also said it expects the design to reduce costs and increase productivity.

One analyst was skeptical about the move.

"Supposedly they believe that it will achieve some level of productivity and cost reductions that will be additive to profitability. But in the absence of any detail as to how much benefit these actions will eventually yield, it's tough to say if this is a meaningful announcement or not," said Amer Tiwana, a senior analyst and managing director at CRT Capital Group.

The news comes as the company has been trying to raise cash either through new financing or an asset sale.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Kodak was preparing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing in case it was unable to sell its digital patents to raise capital. A Kodak spokesman declined to comment on the possibility of bankruptcy.

Kodak has been trying to get new financing to enable it to keep operating as it continues to lose money on its new businesses. In addition to trying to raise debt, the company hired Lazard Ltd in July to sell a patent portfolio, which it said would give it the cash it needs.

It has hired FTI Consulting to help with restructuring and also has hired restructuring lawyers. The company has been under pressure since September, when it drew cash from a credit line, tipping investors off to liquidity issues.

The company also lost three board members at the end of December. Last week, Kodak warned investors it might be kicked off the New York Stock Exchange if it could not boost its share price over the next six months.

Under the business structure changes, which became effective at the beginning of the year, the company's commercial and consumer segments are absorbing the businesses that now sit in the Film, Photofinishing and Entertainment group. That group's head will move over to the newly named commercial business.

The Commercial Segment will include the graphic communications group, as well as take on the entertainment imaging and commercial film businesses.

The consumer business will include the consumer digital imaging group, as well as businesses from the old film and photofinishing unit, including paper and output systems, event imaging solutions and the consumer film and intellectual property business.

(Reporting By Caroline Humer, Tom Hals and Yinka Adegoke; editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Dave Zimmerman and Andre Grenon)