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Apple, Google, RIMM: Kodak's Patent Buyers?

Other potential bidders, according to Poltorak, could be non-practicing entities, or companies that would acquire the patents for the purpose of licensing them or enforcing them among unauthorized users; patent aggregators like RPX (RPXC) which might consider the acquisition as a means of appeasing its members; and "opportunistic hedge funds and private-equity groups interested in investing in an alternative asset class."

Poltorak said the first round of official bidding is expected in mid-October, so it's any day now.

Meanwhile, Kodak shares have swung wildly in recent sessions amid unusually heavy trading, even falling below $1 on Sept. 30 after The Wall Street Journal reported that Kodak had hired Jones Day for restructuring advice.

The company issued a statement after the closing bell that day denying any intention of filing for bankruptcy. Commenting on its hiring of Jones Day, Kodak said it is "committed to meeting all of its obligations" and "also continues to actively pursue its previously announced strategy to monetize its digital imaging patent portfolio. Kodak remains focused on meeting its commitments to customers and suppliers, and on delivering on its strategy to become a profitable, sustainable digital company."

"It is not unusual for a company in transformation to explore all options and to engage a variety of outside advisers, including financial and legal advisers," Kodak added. Jones Day is an adviser on bankruptcy, but also on other paths companies may take to boost their financial positions, including raising new debt or equity, or negotiating swaps of debt forgiveness for ownership stakes.

Kodak confirmed it had hired Jones Day, but said it "is one of a number of advisers that Kodak is working with."

Last week Kodak said it made a $14 million payment to its bondholders, according to spokesman Chris Veronda. That followed word days earlier that Fitch Ratings had cut its rating on Kodak to CC from CCC which it said "signifies that default of some kind appears probable." In late September , Kodak drew $160 million against its credit line saying it was borrowing the funds "for general corporate purposes," according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. With an interest rate of 1.5%, Kodak has until 2016 to repay the loan. The drawdown followed Kodak's move in April when it entered into an agreement for a new credit facility of up to $400 million.

Kodak's Future

If Kodak is able to sell its patents, and get as much as $3 billion for them, it would buy the company time to give its inkjet printer business a much-needed boost, according to Gimme Credit analyt David Novosel.
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