Will Kodak Ever Find a Buyer?

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Will Eastman Kodak's (NYS: EK) woes ever end?

One of Kodak's institutional investors, Investment Partners Asset Management, has sent a letter to the board beseeching it to explore selling the entire company. Gregg Abella of IPAM said, "In my opinion, Kodak's long-term performance is simply unacceptable, and as such it has not earned the right to remain an independent company."

The letter states that a larger company with more resources would be in a better position to commercialize Kodak's intellectual property more efficiently. Abella also says that Kodak's management has had ample time and has still come up short. He calls on other large institutional shareholders to rally and enact change before it's too late, adding, "the status quo cannot continue."

This comes shortly after the company spooked investors by drawing on its credit line, inciting fears that it's running out of cash. The move triggered a pair of fresh debt-rating downgrades by multiple rating agencies, adding insult to injury.

Kodak's results have been steadily deteriorating, with last quarter's gross margin falling to 14.7% from the prior year's 19.5%. The $289 million in gross profit was easily consumed by $356 million in operating expenses, and its cash position fell to $957 million, compared with $1.6 billion only six months prior.

The company's market cap is down to a meager $417 million, while some previous estimates had valued its patent portfolio in the billions. Even if those estimates are a little elevated, which I happen to think they are, cutting the $3 billion estimate in half would be a $1.5 billion payday and a massive score for the once-great camera maker.

It's a no-brainer that an all-out sale would be the best-case scenario for shareholders; the real question is, who would be interested in picking up the company and be able to best use its IP? Kodak's been shopping around for a "strategic buyer in the wireless industry," which is so vague that it could be anyone from Research In Motion (NAS: RIMM) to Google (NAS: GOOG) . In the absence of any official word, we're left to our own devices to speculate. Maybe even OmniVision (NAS: OVTI) will come back for a second helping after it snagged a handful earlier this year.

I have to agree that Kodak's IP is better suited to someone else's hands, since Kodak has done little to prove otherwise. What company will be brave enough to step up and put Kodak out of its misery?

At the time this article was published Fool contributorEvan Niuowns shares of OmniVision Technologies, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out hisholdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google and Research In Motion.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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