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Photography pioneer Kodak files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

January 13, 2012: A Kodak billboard is seen in New York's Times Square.

January 13, 2012: A Kodak billboard is seen in New York's Times Square.  (Reuters)

Eastman Kodak Co. filed for bankruptcy protection early Thursday morning, after the film pioneer failed to raise fresh cash to fund a long-sputtering turnaround, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The 131-year-old company struggled for decades to cope with the emergence of competitors in its film business and the rise of digital technology. But its final pivot -- an attempt to transform itself into a company selling printers -- proved too costly amid declining film sales and expensive obligations to its retirees.

The company said in a statement it has obtained "a fully-committed, $950 million debtor-in-possession credit facility with an 18-month maturity from Citigroup to enhance liquidity and working capital." It said it believes it has "sufficient liquidity" to continue business operations during Chapter 11.

"Kodak is taking a significant step toward enabling our enterprise to complete its transformation," Kodak CEO Antonio Perez said in a statement.

"Chapter 11 gives us the best opportunities to maximize the value in two critical parts of our technology portfolio: our digital capture patents ... and our breakthrough printing and deposition technologies, which give Kodak a competitive advantage in our growing digital businesses."

Perez pointed out the fact that the company has effectively moved away from its traditional film operations, "closing 13 manufacturing plants and 130 processing labs, and reducing our workforce by 47,000 since 2003."

"Now we must complete the transformation by further addressing our cost structure and effectively monetizing non-core IP assets," he said. "We look forward to working with our stakeholders to emerge a lean, world-class, digital imaging and materials science company."

The statement said that the Rochester, N.Y.-based company expects to pay employee wages and benefits and continue customer programs. Subsidiaries of the company outside the U.S. will not be affected by the bankruptcy filing.

The voluntary petitions for Chapter 11 business reorganization were filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

The filing came as little surprise, with The Wall Street Journal reporting ahead of the announcement that the company was appointing a chief restructuring officer in anticipation of bankruptcy.

Shares of Kodak ended Wednesday trading up 4.4 percent at 55 cents, but have fallen 14.6 percent during January, and almost 90 percent over the past 12 months, according to Fact Set data, MarketWatch reported.

Eastman Kodak last week unveiled a new, streamlined business structure aimed at increasing productivity, cutting costs and boosting the troubled company's digital business.

Under the new structure, Kodak reduced its number of segments from three to two -- the Commercial Segment and Consumer Segment.

Kodak previously had three operating units: the graphic communications group, which provided digital equipment and software to printing industries; the consumer digital imaging group, which focused on print images; and film, photofinishing and entertainment.