Are Eastman Kodak's Parts Worth More Than Their Sum?


Shares of ill-fatedEastman Kodak (NYS: EK) popped today, after a Bloomberg article suggested that the company's portfolio of patents might be worth up to $3 billion,according to MDP Capital Group.

The company's market cap as of yesterday's closing price of $2.14 stood at $576 million. That would imply that its patents alone are worth more than five times the entire company's capitalization. The only reason the market is giving this outrageous idea any bit of credibility is Google's (NAS: GOOG) recent patent-driven procurement.

It's true that Kodak's patents are about the only thing the company has left going for it, given its absolute lack of innovation and ability to adapt. It even sold a handful of them to image-sensor maker OmniVision Technologies (NAS: OVTI) earlier this year for a paltry $65 million. That deal included only 850 patents.

Patently offensive
Kodak announced last month that it is "exploring strategic alternatives" for its "1,100 U.S. patents that are fundamental to the digital imaging industry." That announcement came shortly after an International Trade Commission ruling that went mostly against Kodak in a case against Apple (NAS: AAPL) and Research In Motion (NAS: RIMM) .

Kodak's patents are unquestionably valuable, particularly as recent patent disputes have escalated into full-out war. What remains highly questionable is how much they're worth, and how the company will realize the value there. Any suitor interested in the patents probably isn't interested in the company's losses or pension shortfalls.

I will answer your question with ... another question
So are Eastman Kodak's parts worth more than the sum? Yes. But by how much? I believe the company is in a unique position to extract a premium for its patents in the current environment, but $3 billion seems a little far-fetched to me. That would be a dream come true for shareholders, but even that may not make up for all the sleep investors have lost over the past decade.

At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorEvan Niuowns shares of Apple and 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 Research In Motion, Apple, and Google.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Google and Apple and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. 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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Originally published