Thursday Losers: Eastman Kodak Stumbles Anew

David Sterman's picture

Thursday, April 29, 2010 - 11:33am

by David Sterman

Just a few years ago, Eastman Kodak (NYSE: EK) looked set to go the way of the dodo bird. Obituaries for this former "Nifty Fifty" stalwart were being written at a furious pace as the digital photography revolution seemingly passed the company by. But Kodak has staged a phoenix-like rise as massive cost cuts led to a -95% reduction in the company’s operating loss last year. In fact, the company turned a profit in the December 2009 quarter for the first time in recent memory.

But shares are taking it on the chin in Thursday trading, shedding nearly -15% as the company’s quarterly results came in below forecasts. So was it all just a dream? Not really. Eastman Kodak is indeed far healthier now, as sales of digital photography equipment and inkjet printers are now growing at a solid clip, offsetting the terminal decline of the traditional film business. The company is also benefiting from impressive royalty revenue for its patents.

Of course, this is a company that has seen its workforce shrink from 70,000 in 2002 to a current 20,000, so Kodak is unlikely to ever again be a tech titan. But shares do possess real value - if the newer products can continue to offset the declining legacy business. However, there’s no need to buy shares just yet. That’s because analysts had been too aggressive in their profit forecasts, and will likely need to ratchet them down - that could pressure shares further in coming sessions. Once shares have found a floor, you’ll be looking at a company that sports a price/sales ratio of less than 1.0, which is not bad for a technology company with solid gross margins. Also of note, the company now has more cash than debt for the first time in a long time.

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Executives at companies are well aware that acquisition announcements can punish a company’s stock, as investors fear a dilution in profits. That’s why these announcements are often paired with positive news, such as the release of strong quarterly results. Harman International Industries (NYSE: HAR), which makes high-end audio equipment, tried to slip a Brazilian acquisition past potentially wary investors - to no avail. Even though the company topped quarterly estimates, shares are still off nearly -20%. That’s quite a haircut, and probably also the result of profit-taking after shares had been steadily and robustly climbing during the past year. Investors are likely disappointed as well that profits only modestly beat forecasts after blowing past forecasts in the prior two quarters by a very large margin.

Audio electronics is a mature industry, and the price-to-earnings ratio (P/E) of 20 times projected earnings does not look to expand much beyond current levels. You may see a modest bounce back after today’s selling has abated, but it does look like the stock has largely topped out after a strong trading trend during the past 12 months.

David Sterman does not personally hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article.
StreetAuthority LLC does not hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article.