Home news Kodak adjusts focus in cryptocurrency move

Kodak adjusts focus in cryptocurrency move


There is a long and often dishonourable tradition of businesses deciding to reinvent themselves to take advantage of the latest investment trend.

Sometimes, it is merely cosmetic, with a name change seeking to tap into the new zeitgeist.

During the dot com boom, for example, it became popular for companies to add “.com” to their moniker.
One of the most notorious examples in the UK saw a company called Freepages rename itself in January 1999 to Scoot.com, after which it saw its share price multiply tenfold.
Another saw Langley & Johnson, a company that had previously laid pipes for the water industry, reinvent itself as [email protected] with the intention of investing in internet companies and it too saw its shares rocket.
Then there was African Lakes, a UK-listed former plantations operator, which renamed itself African Internet.
And Parallel Pictures, a film production company, which changed its name to NetB2B.
Such wheezes dropped out of fashion after the dot com bubble burst and, for good reason, investors have largely seen through them.
Biofutures International, a business that previously converted palm oil into biofuel, decided in 2013 to reinvent itself as an advanced materials company and rename itself Graphene Nanochem.
Investors were persuaded to back the company and buy new shares at 140p each. Those shares can today be picked up for around 1.9p each.

Image: Kodak’s Brownie Special Six-20 and the Pocket Instamatic 20
Such an attempted reinvention now appears to be underway at what was once one of the world’s biggest companies.
Eastman Kodak, once the world’s biggest makers of photographic film, saw its share price double on Wall Street on Tuesday evening when it said it was entering the world of cryptocurrencies.
It is launching a new coin, KodakCOIN, which will support a platform helping photographers licence their work and track the unlicensed use of it.
Kodak is not the only business to jump aboard the cryptocurrency bandwagon.
Just before Christmas, a loss-making US drinks company called Long island Iced Tea Corp announced it was changing its name to Long Blockchain Corp and said it would now seek to invest in or partner with companies developing blockchain, the technology that underpins Bitcoin and other crypto currencies.
Its shares more than doubled on the news, which was accompanied by a pledge that it would still retain “a beverage subsidiary”.
Other examples include Chanticleer, a US burger restaurant chain, which saw shares shoot up by 40% when it announced last week that it was going to use blockchain technology to support a customer loyalty scheme.

Kodak’s attempted reinvention is by far the most eye-catching, though.
This is a company that, in the early 1970s, was in the so-called “Nifty Fifty”.
This was never a formal stock index as such but was a name applied to a group of 50 American companies that were regarded as promising solid and reliable earnings growth on which investors could depend regardless of the economic backdrop or how the wider stock market was performing.
Accordingly, they were granted outlandish stock market valuations.
At a time when the US market was trading on an average rating of 15 times expected earnings, these businesses traded at around 40 times earnings, if not more.

Image: Kodak was accounted for 90% of all US film sales
They included among their number businesses like Pfizer, Walt Disney and Wal-Mart, that today remain among the world’s biggest corporations.
Yet they also included a number of companies that either no longer exist in their own right, such as Emery Air Freight and Simplicity Patterns; which merged with other companies, such as Squibb and Burroughs; or which limp on as a shadow of their former selves because their technology was superseded.
This latter grouping includes the likes of Polaroid and Xerox as well as Kodak itself.
Kodak’s fall from grace is still shocking.
In 1976, it accounted for 90% of all US film sales and 85% of all US camera sales.
There were early warnings signs when, shortly after that, Fuji entered the US market but Kodak shrugged off the challenge in the belief American consumers would not switch to a Japanese brand. It quickly lost market share.
But the rot really set in when, in the late 1990s, it was late to offer digital photography products and fell behind the likes of Canon and Nikon.
Worse was to come when digital cameras became embedded in mobile phones and tablets.

More from Business

Even after the doubling of the share price, the company is now worth less than $290m, having been worth nearly $20bn as recently as 1995.
This reinvention may have provided a rocket boost to Kodak’s share price – but the long-term picture remains, sadly, one of decline.

Source: Sky