Kodak opts to keep Prosper, develop hybrid press options

Kodak says 17 companies - including major press makers - are working with it to integrate the Ultrastream inkjet technology of the Prosper business it will now retain.

Goss China, Mitsubishi (MHI-PPM), Fuji Kikai and Uteco are named as companies using Kodak's Ultrastream evaluation kits to explore its integration into future printing solutions, expected to reach the market in 2019.

Kodak announced on Friday that it would not sell the "near-profitable" Prosper business because none of the multiple offers received reflected its value.

Chief executive Jeff Clarke says the decision followed an in-depth management review of operations and discussions with prospective buyers: "This is a pragmatic decision given the improvements in the business and the offers received," he said.

Clarke says Prosper performed well last year, increasing sales by 40 per cent. "We expect our Enterprise Inkjet Systems Division (EISD) to be profitable this year, including our next-generation Ultrastream investment."

Kodak says it will continue to invest in Ultrastream, and is partnering companies to create new technology applications to drive market demand. It is open to other partnerships, acquisitions and portfolio business sales.

Chief financial officer David Bullwinkle described the year-long Prosper sale process - for which it hired Sagent Advisors - was "robust", and elicited strong interest in the business and technology. The company will now recast its financial results to put Prosper back into continuing operations.

Randy Vandagriff has been named to lead the Enterprise Inkjet Systems Division as president, following the departure of Philip Cullimore on a "career sabbatical".

Vandagriff played an integral role in the development of the Ultrastream technology and Kodak's digital print business since 2004, and will lead the inkjet business further into commercial printing, packaging, labels and home decor markets.

Kodak has also made a further commitment to development of Chinese and southeast Asian markets with the opening of a new Flexo Packaging Technology Centre in Shanghai at the end of last month. Among guests who saw demonstrations of the Flexcel NX plate system were Fang Qian, vice division chief, of China's Press and Publication Administration and Jianbao Zhou director of the Flexographic Printing Branch of China Print Technology Association, who opened the centre.

Pictured: The Prosper 6000 inkjet web and (right) Randy Vandagriff

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