Kodak Patents Could Paint Profitable Picture

ROCHESTER, N.Y. ( TheStreet) -- Eastman Kodak's ( EK) patents could paint a profitable picture for this relic of America's past.

Kodak continued to gain in premarket trading Friday -- even as major index futures were sharply lower following Thursday's hefty market declines -- on reports that the struggling company is working to sell off its potentially lucrative patents.

Kodak has struggled to gain momentum in its digital camera business as its printing business flailed, but its patents could be worth far more than the 131-year-old camera company itself.

Digital-imaging patents owned by Kodak could fetch as much as $3 billion, according to MDB Capital Group, particularly in light of M&A news earlier this week that Google ( GOOG) acquired Motorola Mobility Holdings ( MMI) at a hefty premium, largely for the trove of 17,000 technology patents the target holds, as the search giant moved to better compete with Apple's ( AAPL) iPhone.

"Kodak is the lowest-hanging fruit out there," Chris Marlett, CEO at MDB Capital told Bloomberg. Kodak's patents "could go for a huge number and nobody's talking about it."

Kodak's accumulation of patents could put the company's value at upwards of $10 per share, compared with its closing price of $2.14 on Aug. 16, before the Bloomberg report came out, MDB's Marlett estimated, putting its market cap around $576 million. By Thursday's closing bell, the stock had gained more than 42.5% over two sessions to $3.05, increasing the market cap to more than $820 million. In premarket trading Friday, the stock was higher by 1.6%.

Despite Kodak's $1.2 billion pension shortfall, potential acquirers like Microsoft ( MSFT) and Samsung Electronics could benefit greatly from its patents -- technologies used in a bulky 85% of all digital cameras and smartphones -- Rafferty Capital Markets told the news outlet.

Investment bank Lazard began marketing Kodak's roster of patents this week, and interested parties include a large wireless provider, according to reports in The Wall Street Journal.

Kodak did say in July that it was looking at opportunities to sell its more than 1,100 digital-imaging patents "reflecting the current heightened market demand for intellectual property." Kodak's patents include those for processing, editing and storing digital images. The company invented the first digital camera in 1975.

A patent infringement lawsuit of Kodak's with Research In Motion ( RIMM) and Apple, worth around $1 billion, is expected to be settled sometime this month.

-- Written by Miriam Marcus Reimer in New York.


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