Kodak 'on brink of Chapter 11' report claims

Simon Nias
Thursday, January 5, 2012

Kodak could be preparing to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, according to the Wall Street Journal, as its struggle to secure new funding comes to a head.

In a detailed report citing "people familiar with the matter", the WSJ claimed that the company started to make preparations before Christmas for a Chapter 11 filing that could happen by February.

This is said to have involved talking to banks including JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo about some $1bn in debtor-in-possession financing to allow the company to keep operating during bankruptcy proceedings.

Kodak has been suffering from tightening liquidity since late last year, when it was forced to draw $160m from its revolving credit facility before further spooking investors by announcing - in the wake of poor third quarter results - that its survival could depend on its ability to raise new debt or complete a sale of 1,100 patents from its digital imaging portfolio.

The fact Kodak has failed thus far to sell those patents - equivalent to around 10% of its total IP portfolio - which it has been touting since last July, is understood to be the reason behind its exploring the alternative of filing for Chapter 11.

It is thought that a court-supervised auction of the patents would make the sale easier and allow the company to command a higher price.

Kodak was forced to deny that it was considering filing for bankruptcy protection on 30 September 2011 after it emerged that the company had appointed Jones Day, a law firm specialising in restructuring, as one of its advisers.

In marked contrast to its September denial, Kodak has yet to issue a statement on the renewed allegation and a spokesman quoted in the WSJ article said that the company wouldn't comment on "market rumour and speculation".

Kodak has lost money in each year bar one since chief executive Antonio Perez's appointment in 2005 as it has struggled to derive sufficient revenues from the consumer and commercial inkjet printing business that Perez has bet the company's future on.

Kodak has had mixed success in commercial and consumer printing, which is dominated by the likes of HP, and a key issue for creditors is expected to be whether or not the company's printer operations are worth supporting or whether the company's value is in its patents.

The WSJ cited the example of Nortel Networks, which opted for liquidation in bankruptcy court rather than restructuring and raised a greater than expected $4.5bn for the sale of its patents.

Meanwhile the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) has warned Kodak that it faces being delisted if it cannot restore its share price, which has languished below the minimum $1 per share mark since early December.

The WSJ report is available here.


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