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Kodak Posts Profit For 1st Time In More Than A Year

Thu, 01/28/2010 - 7:35am
Ben Dobbin, AP Business Writer

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) -- Eastman Kodak Co., the remade picture-taking pioneer, broke a series of four straight quarterly losses with a $443 million profit in the last three months of 2009 that sent its share price rocketing higher Thursday.

The earnings indicate Kodak, whose four-year makeover as a digital-photography heavyweight was sucker-punched in 2008 by the economic downturn, may be gathering momentum once again.

Its results in the October-December period were lifted by consumer and commercial inkjet printer sales, leaner costs and royalties on digital imaging inventions.

Its shares soared 91 cents, or 19.2 percent, to $5.68 in morning trading Thursday. They are trading in a 52-week range of $2.01 to $7.24.

Kodak earned the equivalent of $1.40 a share, in the fourth quarter, compared with a loss of $918 million, or $3.42 a share, a year earlier. Sales rose 6 percent to $2.58 billion from $2.43 billion.

Kodak said it earned $1.08 a share when one-time items are excluded, handily beating Wall Street forecasts. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected, on average, a much lower profit of 18 cents a share on lower sales of $2.38 billion.

Kodak drastically cut costs as it underwent a perilous transition from film to digital imaging from 2004 to 2007. Beginning in the fourth quarter of 2008, however, the global economic swoon sapped sales of both digital and film-based photography products.

"Despite a difficult economic environment, we delivered in 2009," said Chief Executive Antonio Perez. "Our momentum is returning and our strategy is paying off."

The 129-year-old Rochester-based company pared its payroll from 64,000 to 26,900 from 2004 to 2007. It eliminated another 4,100 jobs last year, shrinking its work force to a 1930s-era low of 20,300 from a 1988 peak of 145,300.

Digital sales rose 12 percent to $1.99 billion from $1.78 billion in the quarter, with operating profits jumping to $380 million from a $41 million loss a year earlier.

Traditional film-based revenue fell 10 percent to $589 million from $652 million. Helped by cost reductions and robust sales of movie film, operating profits in the segment rose 36 percent to $53 million.

Kodak said it achieved its target of doubling sales of consumer inkjet printers to more than 2 million in 2009, although that business isn't expected to be profitable until 2011. The company estimates that consumer inkjet overall is a $50 billion market.

Its line of home printers, launched in 2007, produce high-quality photos using inexpensive ink cartridges. Priced about 15 percent higher than comparable printers, they're targeted at consumers who print more pictures on average.

Kodak said its gross profit margin widened to 34.4 percent of sales from 20.4 percent a year earlier. About 6 percentage points of the increase was driven by productivity gains and higher demand for digital plates and thermal paper for retailers, plus productivity gains for digital cameras, consumer printers, electrophotographic printing and traditional photofinishing.

Another 8 points came from nonrecurring intellectual property licensing agreements.

After a yearlong legal tussle, Kodak negotiated royalty paying deals with Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc. last month. It followed up in January by suing Apple Inc. and Research in Motion Ltd. over digital-camera technology in their iPhone and BlackBerry smart phones.

Kodak expects to generate, on average, $250 million to $350 million in annual intellectual property income from 2009 to 2011. It said it exceeded that range in 2009.

For all of 2009, Kodak lost $210 million, or 78 cents a share, compared with a loss of $442 million, or $1.57 in 2008. Sales fell 19 percent to $7.6 billion from $9.4 billion. Analysts were expecting a wider loss of $1.47 a share on $7.4 billion in sales.

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