The Latest Moment of Kodak Hubris

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The bigger they are, the harder they fall. And the bigger your ego, the more ornery your denial.

Consider the case of Eastman Kodak (OTCBB: EKDKQ). Hot on the heels of a supposedly dramatic restructuring, the storied photography firm filed for Chapter 11. And I mean right away, just a couple of days after the reorg that was supposed to save its bacon.

The company sits on a wealth of patents in film-based and digital photography, which still could turn this sad story around. Supposedly, tech giants didn't bid on the patents for sale just because a bankruptcy was coming like a freight train -- where they would receive a court blessing for the transaction and the patents would likely go on deep discount.

And that's where Kodak's latest act of hubris comes in. Management wants between $2.2 billion and $2.6 billion for that treasure trove of intellectual property.

Let that sink in for a second. Then consider that the company sports a market cap of less than $100 million and an enterprise value of $749 million. So in management's eyes, the lifesaving patents are worth at least 22 times the company's market value or three times its buyout price tag.

I don't think so, pal. CEO/Chairman Antonio Perez (who may have too much clout attached to his inflated expectations) needs to wake up and smell the napalm. This will be a fire sale.

If Perez bases that silly estimate on bidding wars of recent years like the $4.5 billion Nortel bonanza, that particular auction contained a ton of mobile technology patents and it happened just as the infringement lawsuits started flying across the smartphone sector. Sure, cameras are an important part of any modern phone, but still a relatively minor component of a very complex system.

What makes Kodak think that Apple (NAS: AAPL) , Google (NAS: GOOG) , or perhaps Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) would be willing to overpay for its camera patents today? They were all supposedly holding out for a better deal in the first place. It would be cheaper just to buy Kodak than to haggle over its patent filings, even at a massive buyout premium.

These are some of the wealthiest companies on the planet but they didn't get that way by throwing their cash away. And it's getting easier every day to argue that they all have the patent weaponry they need for going on litigation rampage (in the cases of Microsoft and Apple) or raising a shield against such campaigns (hello, Google). The Kodak moment for patent sales has passed, so to speak.

Mobile computing is a trillion-dollar revolution. Sadly, it's killing Kodak. Find out the name of perhaps the biggest winner in a special report, 100% free, but only for a limited time.

At the time this article was published Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares of Google but holds no other position in any of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Google, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google, Microsoft, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinion, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Check out Anders' holdings and bio, or follow him on Twitter and Google+. We have a disclosure policy.

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