Kodak Surges After Bankruptcy Denial

(Eastman Kodak article updated.)

ROCHESTER, N.Y. ( TheStreet) -- Eastman Kodak's ( EK) shares continued to regain ground Monday amid heavy trading after the imaging company denied rumors that it may file for bankruptcy.

Kodak said late Friday it has no intention to file for bankruptcy. Rather 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."

The statement came after The Wall Street Journal reported that Kodak had hired Jones Day for restructuring advice, sending Kodak shares plummeting in Friday's session to close below $1 per share. On Monday, the stock surged 79.5% in afternoon trading to $1.40. More than 58 million shares changed hands with less than an hour left in the day's session, compared with their average daily volume of just 15 million.

Kodak has struggled to gain momentum in its digital camera business as its printing business flailed, but its digital-imaging patents could be worth far more than the 131-year-old camera and imaging company itself, possibly fetching as much as $3 billion, according to some analysts. Reports surfaced last month that Kodak was working to sell off its patents.

"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 said in its statement late Friday. 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."

Kodak's bondholders weren't fully assured. On Thursday, Fitch cut its ratings on Kodak to CC from CCC which the ratings agency said "signifies that default of some kind appears probable."

On Monday, Kodak made a $14 million payment to its bondholders, according to spokesman Chris Veronda.

Earlier last week 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 draw 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

CEO Antonio Perez said in late August that Kodak was in talks with potential buyers, and had signed confidentiality agreements with possible bidders for at least 1,000 Kodak patents.

If Kodak is able to sell its patents, it would buy the company time to give its inkjet printer business a much-needed boost, according to Gimme Credit analyst David Novosel.

Kodak has been putting more of an emphasis on its printer business lately, picking up market share from Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) and Canon ( CAJ) along the way, attracting consumers with more printing features and less-expensive ink.

Even with a patent sale, Kodak intends to hold onto the licensing rights to its proprietary technology.

Perez is looking for buyers willing to pay cash for the patents, but only wants to sell "the part of the portfolio that does not apply to the core investments and the future of the company."

The marketing of patents is a smart move for Kodak -- a company that has struggled after years of annual losses -- particularly in light of M&A news last month that Google ( GOOG) acquired Motorola Mobility Holdings ( MMI) at a hefty premium, largely for the accumulation of 17,000 technology patents the target holds, as the search giant moved to better compete with Apple's ( AAPL) iPhone.

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

-- Written by Miriam Marcus Reimer in New York.


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