Kodak emerges from bankruptcy nearly unrecognizable

The iconic photography company will drop consumer digital cameras to focus on products for other businesses

The Kodak World Headquarters in Rochester, New York remains the company's home as it changes its focus to business products.
Guy Solimano/Getty

The struggling but iconic photography company Kodak emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy Tuesday, looking almost nothing like its former self.

After 20 months of bankruptcy, the new Kodak will be significantly smaller, with only 8,500 employees, down from a peak of 145,000 during its heyday in the 1980s. It will also shift its focus almost exclusively to products for other businesses, such as high-speed digital printing technology and printing on flexible packaging for consumer goods.

The company struggled through the early 2000s to compete in the consumer digital camera and printing market. After accruing $6.75 billion in liabilities, it filed for bankruptcy last year. Filing allowed Kodak to shed high pension costs and some of its remaining consumer businesses. It stopped offering stock under its own ticker this week and plans to introduce a new stock for investors soon.

The managers for its pension fund in England dropped a $2.8 billion claim against Kodak as part of the bankruptcy. Instead, they will pick up Kodak's personal imaging and document imaging businesses for $650 million.

Shedding those costs, plus an infusion of $406 million in new financing, will allow Kodak to focus on more niche areas of business, such as developing cheaper touch surfaces for smartphones and improving on inkjet-printing technology for commercial printers.

"You can't imagine how much I have been waiting for this moment. ...This is a totally new company," Chief Executive Officer Antonio Perez said.

Perez has been a controversial CEO, as he oversaw the company through its worst years. But he's also responsible for its new focus on commercial markets. He said he expects the new company to report $2.5 billion in revenue next year.

Still, it remains to be seen whether Kodak can compete in its new niche. While the company spent years focusing on consumer cameras and printers, rivals, including its longtime competitor Fujifilm, gained a hold on wide swaths of the commercial printing and technology market.

But Perez is confident Kodak can survive. Investors will have a chance to prove him right or wrong when the stock is re-listed under a new ticker in the coming weeks.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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