By Alexandra Burlacu | Aug 11, 2012 01:42 PM EDT
Eastman Kodak's patent auction is drawing to a close, but the bankrupt photography titan has received only low bids for the patents it claims are worth $2.6 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Citing unnamed sources, the Journal reported that all the bids received for Kodak's extensive portfolio of 1,100 patents fell significantly below the $500 million mark, as consortiums including Apple and Google "declined to engage in the sort of spirited bidding that drove up prices in an auction of Nortel Networks Inc. patents a year ago."
Bankrupt Kodak filed for Chapter 11 protection back in January after failing to keep up in the rapidly changing photography environment, as most consumers and rivals shifted from film to digital photography. Kodak held $1.3 billion in cash at the end of June, but its net loss for the first six months deepened from $425 million a year earlier to $665 million. Now, Kodak is seeking to sell its patents in order to repay its creditors, including Citigroup, which granted Kodak a $950 million bankruptcy loan. According to the most recent regulatory filings, Kodak has drawn $700 million under its bankruptcy loan, issuing $114 million in letters of credit. With no apparent bidding war and such low initial bids, however, Kodak may have to work harder to pay its debts and escape from Chapter 11.
Kodak made another sales effort last year, but failed to find takers due to fears that transactions may be dissolved in bankruptcy proceedings. Moreover, back in July the International Trade Commission (ITC) dealt another setback to Kodak's sale, invalidating the company's most lucrative patent in a case brought against Apple and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM).
Kodak is selling its patents in two groups: one portfolio related to capturing and processing images on cameras, smartphones and tablets, and the other related to storing and analyzing images. Unsurprisingly, bidders showed more interest in the "digital capture" portfolio, i.e. the first group.
Last week, initial bids for the patents stood between $150 million and $250 million. It is unknown at this point where prices stood on Friday, Aug. 10, but as the auction progressed the bids became increasingly more complex, the insiders told the WSJ. Kodak reportedly preferred bids for the entire portfolio, but offers eventually came in "all different shapes and sizes."
Apple has reportedly teamed up with Microsoft and patent aggregation firm Intellectual Ventures Management LLC in the auction, sourced told the WSJ. Moreover, Silicon Valley giants Apple and Google work against each other and against private-equity firm Vector Capital Corp, tipped the insiders. Google's consortium includes patent aggregation firm RPX, as well as Samsung Electronics, HTC Corp., and LG Electronics.
According to the Journal, people involved in the auction said the process is complicated and with "extra secrecy, unusual procedures and a range of different offers." Under the auction schedule, Kodak has to select the auction winner by Monday, Aug. 13.
"Our patent auction is a complex and dynamic process, and is very much ongoing," said a spokesman for Kodak. "We and all participants are still bound by the court order on confidentiality and cannot comment prior to an outcome." The sale continues through the weekend, but the result will be hard to predict.
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