"We are taking this step at this point in our transformation in order to build the strongest possible foundation for the Kodak of the future." That is what Eastman Kodak Co. chairman and CEO Antonio Perez said one year ago, in a video message explaining the company’s decision to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.
While hardly unforeseen, the filing on Jan. 19, 2012, stunned many people in Rochester and around the globe. It also was greeted by some with skepticism and a sense of doom, fed by the belief that Kodak stood little chance of surviving Chapter 11.
One year later, Kodak remains in bankruptcy-but it’s still standing and seems on track to exit Chapter 11 in the first half of this year.
The Kodak that now appears likely to emerge from bankruptcy will be a different company. It has moved to shed a number of segments, including all of the photography lines that made it a business icon.
The post-bankruptcy Kodak, officials say, will be an imaging business focused on commercial, packaging and functional printing solutions and enterprise services. In pro forma financials Kodak released a few months ago, the company projected revenues growing from $2.73 billion in 2013 to $3.04 billion in 2015, with operating cash flow rising from $170 million to $285 million.
You can’t take projections to the bank, of course, and the skeptics will note that Kodak believed it would get more than $2 billion for its digital imaging patent portfolio, only to see that figure whittled to $527 million in the sale approved last week.
That amount was enough, however, to clear the way for the $830 million financing deal negotiated with a group of bondholders in November. Presumably, those investors had other places to put their money if they thought Kodak was a bad bet.
A second chance for Kodak comes with no guarantees. And those who think a quick liquidation would have preserved more value for creditors and retirees might be proved right someday. But surely most people in Rochester believe reorganization was a gamble worth taking.
Community leaders clearly understand now that Rochester’s economy must be sufficiently strong and diverse to thrive no matter how Kodak’s story plays out. Still, the best scenario remains one with Kodak very much in the picture.
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