Kodak, Disruptive Innovation And The Stock Market


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How and why stock analysts ignored Kodak's early efforts in digital imaging and instead praised the film business.

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Kodak, Disruptive Innovation And The Stock Market

  1. 1. Kodak, Disruptive Innovation and the Stock Market
  2. 2. The graph above suggests that Kodak’s stock hasn’t done very well since the rise of digital imaging.
  3. 3. From 1999 to 2009, it went down from 88USD to around 3 USD.
  4. 4. Film was ahigh margin businessthat Kodak used to dominate.
  5. 5. Digital imaging removed the need for film and thus, Kodak’s profits faded away.
  6. 6. Therefore Kodak hadto both use existingcapabilities and developnew ones in order to survive.
  7. 7. It’s been a tough journey for Kodak and as stated before, the stock has reached new bottoms every year.
  8. 8. Standard & Poor’s Equity Research Analyst Erik Kolb commented on the results:
  9. 9. “They were late to the game intheir shift to digital and they have been playing catch-up since.”
  10. 10. Kolb also said in 2009 about Kodak that “They were late in their transition to digital business, namely digital cameras and accessories.”
  11. 11. In fact, Kodak wasn’t late, Kodak entered at an early point.
  12. 12. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see thecomments that analysts like Kolb have made before the technological shift, before everyone suddenly ’knew’ that this wouldhappen and started to say that all companies which suffered did so because they were late?
  13. 13. Mary Benner at Wharton has done some great research regarding how securities analysts had looked at Kodak and its business from the early 1990s and on.
  14. 14. The results are very interesting and will be summarized briefly on the coming slides.
  15. 15. Benner basically shows that analysts did not care about and scarcely commented Kodak’sinvestments in digital imaging that were made during the early 1990s.
  16. 16. On the other hand, the analysts praised film-based and hybrid products, which would later on collapse in revenues.
  17. 17. The ignorance cannot beexplained by industry secrecy or that no oneknew about digital imaging…
  18. 18. … PhotoMagazines and industry publications wrote extensively about digitalimaging in the early 1990s.
  19. 19. But the analysts did not give any attention todigital imagingin its infancy.
  20. 20. Benner also showed that analysts weresignificantly more positive regarding film-based initiatives than those which were based upon
  21. 21. Kodak introduced 13 digital cameras in 1990-96 and two ’hybrid products’ – the Photo CD and
  22. 22. The Photo CD was mentioned 38 times in the analysts’ reports and Advantix 144 times.
  23. 23. Kodak’s first filmless camera, the DCS 100 wasn’t mentioned at all!
  24. 24. In total, there are only ten mentions of Kodak’s digital cameras in the 196 securities analysts’ reports.
  25. 25. Given that those reports total 2653 pages it’s obvious that they ignored the initiatives thatwere essential for the long-term survival of the company.
  26. 26. The photo community seemed to bemore interested in Kodak’s efforts:
  27. 27. “[Kodak]…appears to have found a way to reconcile the respective places of conventional and digital imaging in its strategy… If Kodak is going to lose film customers to digital imaging, it would rather lose them to Kodak…Kodak’s digital camera product line is now as extensive as it is impressive…” // Future Image, Volume 2, Issue 6, October, 1994
  28. 28. Initiatives that sustained the filmbusiness were widely regarded as positive.
  29. 29. “There are excellent opportunities for Kodak and other film manufacturers to develop hybrid systems that combine the best characteristics of chemical and electronic imaging. The Photo CD is a good example of a hybrid system that we believe will extend the life of 35mm film substantially.” // Smith Barney, August 14, 1991
  30. 30. “The AdvancedPhoto System…will be the most importantdevelopment in the photography industry in 20 years.” // Smith Barney, January 1996
  31. 31. Here’s my favorite:
  32. 32. “….Shareholders will revolt once the meager (anddistant) potential returns from electronic imagingbecome clear…we are eager to see shareholders’ reactions when they realize how much of their money is squandered on ‘digital nonsense’”. // Prudential, April 1994
  33. 33. History tells us that if youshould survivea technological shift you have to start at an early point…
  34. 34. … You have to explore it, develop prototypes, recruitpeople with different knowledge andremain committed to something that willnot boost the bottomline in many years…
  35. 35. … Kodak did the right thing and at best, analysts ignored theseactivities, at worst –they were ridiculed and critized.
  36. 36. (By the way, both the Photo CDand Advantix werediscontinued shortly after theirintroduction.)
  37. 37. During the period 1997-2001 it becameincreasingly clear that digital imaging had a future after all and wasn’t only ‘nonsense’.
  38. 38. Kodak’searly workon digital imaging nowstarted to pay off.
  39. 39. In these years, Kodak launched 32 digital camera products and 3 hybrid cameras.
  40. 40. Many of them were very competitive, theyreceived several awards and Kodak obtained significant market shares.
  41. 41. 3 products get 70times more attention than 32 products!
  42. 42. Bear in mind that the ignored products all had in common thatthey had a future while the other ones were going to die soon.
  43. 43. Frightening.
  44. 44. Over time, the analysts becameincreasingly positive to digital imaging.
  45. 45. The next mistake was to underestimate thedynamics associated with a technological shift.
  46. 46. “In our opinion, Kodak has the potential to dominate digital photography in the same way it has dominated traditional photography.” // CSFB, December 8, 1999
  47. 47. A Smith Barney analyst said in March, 1997: “…we believe the penetration by digital cameras of the installed base will be moderate for the next 10 years.”
  48. 48. Wrong.3025201510 5 0 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 Number of film and digital cameras sold in the United States (guess which one is digital!)
  49. 49. Somewhere around 1999-2000, many analyst’s started to become aware of the revolution.3025201510 5 0 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
  50. 50. “Despite our more positive stance, we still hold thatlonger-term fundamentals are shaky. Digital imaging is and will continue to cannibalize Kodak’s highly profitable film business…we do not believe that profitability will match Kodak’s film business” // Morgan Stanley, April 1999
  51. 51. "For Eastman Kodak to become a stronger investment, it has to make a seamless transition from its analog photography to digital photography business…""I havent seen it make a smooth transition yet, but we have to take individual projects like these today and group them into their whole strategy before changing the forecast for the company.” Gary Schneider, analyst at Bear Stearns.
  52. 52. Schneider is right, but I guess the problem is thattechnological shifts do not tend to be very smooth.
  53. 53. The analysts’ role becomes even morequestionable when they later on explainKodak’s decline by stating that the firm overslept the technological shift.
  54. 54. “They were late to the game intheir shift to digital and they have been playing catch-up since.”
  55. 55. They ignored all efforts related to digital imaging up until the avalanche came intomotion, and when it happened some analyst’sstarted to make comments like the one above.
  56. 56. … Who had actually overslept the shift?!
  57. 57. If Kodak had followed the analysts’ way ofreasoning, the company would have been bankrupt around 2001 like Polaroid.
  58. 58. Hence, if you would have given attention to the opposite of what they looked atyou would have beenmuch closer to a goodanalysis (there are of course exceptions).
  59. 59. Why?
  60. 60. We can’t exclude that analysts are biased and have their ownagenda (the good old pump-and-dump strategy).
  61. 61. Another possible explanation is the ’sheepbehaviour’ among people doing the same job.
  62. 62. But thoseexplanations are not sufficient.
  63. 63. I think this spectacular ignorance is related to the way many financial analyst’s look at companies.
  64. 64. They discount cash flows, look at market shares, profitability on different products and use sophisticated data analysis…
  65. 65. … without reflecting about the fundamentalbusiness that they are actually trying to understand.
  66. 66. If you juggle with numbers without thinking about what the numbers represent you end up like the analysts did in the Kodak case.
  67. 67. For stable and predictable businesses such astatic analysis usually works reasonably well.
  68. 68. But under turbulent conditions you’d end up like this:
  69. 69. Film = Hugeprofits and marketdominance
  70. 70. Digital Imaging = Uncertain, low profits,low volumes at the given time
  71. 71. => Keep investing inthe film business and wait with digital imaging, would have been the obviousconclusion from this.
  72. 72. And financially speaking, all digital imaginginitiatives up until the 2000s only generated insignificant revenues compared to film.
  73. 73. In the short term, it’s just a cost.In the long term, it’s absolutely essential.
  74. 74. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that financial analysts need to study and understand economic history and the dynamics of capitalism.
  75. 75. Image attributions
  76. 76. Sources:Benner, M.J. (2007). Securities analysts and incumbent response to radicaltechnological change: The case of digital technology in photography. CNET News
  77. 77. Christian Sandström is a PhD student at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. He writes and speaks about disruptive innovation and technological change. www.christiansandstrom.orgchristian.sandstrom@chalmers.se