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Photo technology pioneer Kodak files for bankruptcy protection

The 130-year old, 1,100 digital patent-owning company that invented the hand-held camera and helped bring the first pictures from the Moon, has filed for bankruptcy protection.

The Rochester, New York-based company obtained a $950 million, 18-month credit facility from Citigroup to keep it going and continue to pay its 17,000 employees. For recollection, the group had a workforce of 63,900 in 2003.

Reuters reports that, at end September, the group had total assets of $5.1 billion and liabilities of $6.75 billion. Its market value has sunk to below $150 million from $31 billion 15 years ago. Non-US subsidiaries were not covered by the Chapter 11 filing.

Kodak was founded by high school dropout George Eastman, who developed a method for dry-plate photography before introducing the Kodak camera in 1888. It went on to invent film, enabling Thomas Edison to develop the motion picture camera, Brownie cameras selling for $1 and Kodachrome film. Paul Simon immortalized the film with its "nice bright colors"? in his 1973 song "Kodachrome."? Kodak stopped producing the film in 2009.

The company also brought to the market, the Instamatic, the first 'point-and-shoot' camera.

Kodak was five years too late to shift to the digital age, said in an interview Antonio M. Perez, a former Hewlett-Packard executive who took charge at Kodak in 2005. He recalled the company invented the first digital camera in 1975, which it shelved because it would threaten its lucrative film business.

As for its involvement in packaged media, Kodak supplies DVD and Blu-ray recordable media (white inkjet printable).

Perez said bankruptcy protection would enable Kodak to continue to work to maximize the value of its technology assets, such as digital imaging patents which are used in most modern digital camera, smartphone and tablet. It is reportedly looking for a buyer for this patent portfolio.

Story filed 19.01.12

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