The Kodak stock has fallen 66% compared to the mid-1990s, and while it has recovered up to $25.96 from the floor of $20 last year, it is still regarded as poorly. Jon C Ogg of 247wallst.com commented that it was, “...thought of as dead money” and “..a company that isn't growing any more and just trying to live off legacy operations.” Kodak currently have long-term debt of $2.7billion, although in January announced the sale of their health group to Onex Corp for $2.3billion in cash.
The hint that changes were afoot came at a question and answer session at the JP Morgan Technology conference in Boston when Kodak President, Antonio Perez, in reply to a question from the audience, announced, "We're going to be abandoning the low-end of the digital camera business. As everyone knows, we're not making much money there. Now we have our own CMOS sensors, so you might see us going down in price because we can make money," said Perez.
He added, however, that the company was planning to develop their own 5Mp CMOS sensor to be used in a future Kodak digital camera, to be released in time for the holiday season, and commented that the the same sensor would make it into “several Motorola cell phones by the end of the year.”
Perez's comments however, weren't scripted and Kodak officials scrambled to refute what he'd said. When we called Eastman Kodak in the US, representative Patrick Hamilton denied that the company were dropping lower-end cameras and said that Perez's comments had been misinterpreted. “Perez's comments were taken out of context. Kodak are not pulling out of the lower end of the market, but as new products are added, old ones will be removed. The development of CMOS sensor technology has led to this decision.”
We asked for a transcript of the Q&A session and were told that there wasn't one, though as this was the President of the company at a technology conference, it would be more likely to say Kodak weren't making one available. Erin Foster, Director of Public Relations at Kodak added: “We will go wherever the consumer market takes us, and will not reveal future product plans for competitive reasons.”
About Antonio Perez
Antonio Perez, 61, was responsible for overseeing Hewlett-Packard's rise to dominance in inkjet printers, and later French smart-card manufacturer Gemplus. He joined Kodak as president and Chief Operating Officer in April 2003, with the hopes that he would do much the same thing for Kodak. He was elected to the the company's board of directors in October 2004 and in may 2005 he was elected Chief Executive On January 1, 2006, became chairman of the company's Board of Directors.