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OT & FID Warning: Fuji Offers Good News, Bad News
Old 01-31-2006   #1
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OT & FID Warning: Fuji Offers Good News, Bad News

OK, weary ones. This is yet another FiD warning. Don't read this if it makes your head spin around and pea soup to spew out of your mouth. Take all precautions. Etc. Presented as a public service that affects us all - good and bad. And there is good news in here, if you care to read it.















It's the end of the quarter for many businesses. Yesterday, it was Kodak and Canon. Today, Fuji steps up. Mixed message, but I'll be the first to admit that there are positive aspects to it. Selected quotes from Reuter's news article, and another, which was posted speculating what Fujifilm would say (some things they did say, others they did not). First, the speculation:

http://in.today.reuters.com/news/new...archived=False

Quote:
Fuji Photo to brief on photo film, camera business
Tue Jan 31, 2006 10:48 AM IST

TOKYO (Reuters) - Fuji Photo Film Co. Ltd. said on Tuesday it would hold a briefing on its struggling photo film and camera division, in what analysts expect will include a downsizing of its colour film operations.
...
The presence of Komori, who has not attended a news conference in nearly two years, suggests the announcement could be significant.
...
"The market's best scenario would be for Fuji Photo to book huge special losses all at once and either significantly shrink its colour film operations or even pull out like Konica Minolta did," said J.P. Morgan analyst Hisashi Moriyama.
...
"But in reality, the market is not expecting that to happen. The consensus is that restructuring will be spread out over two years or so," he said.
I keep seeing this 'two-year' prediction. I think it is pretty much dead on. But you never know...

Quote:
...
Moriyama said it was unlikely Fuji Photo would unveil drastic measures for its colour paper operations, which are still doing relatively well thanks to healthy demand for digital prints.
...
But he reckons Fuji Photo will likely take steps to shore up its digital camera business, possibly narrowing its product line-up or reducing scale. "I don't think they will quit the business," Moriyama said.
And indeed, Fuji did not 'quit the business' today. Not even close. Here's the news:

http://today.reuters.com/business/Ne...ARNINGS-DC.XML

Quote:
Fuji Photo cuts outlook as it restructures film
Tue Jan 31, 2006 8:16 AM ET

By Nathan Layne

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Fuji Photo Film Co. Ltd. (4901.T: Quote, Profile, Research) posted a drop in quarterly profit on Tuesday and slashed its full-year forecast by more than half due to charges to reduce production of photographic film and cut 5,000 jobs.
...
At his first major press conference in nearly two years, Fuji Photo Chief Executive Shigetaka Komori said the color film market was shrinking more than 20 percent each year, well above his initial assumption for a contraction of about 10 percent.
...
Fuji Photo plans to rationalize its production, development, and sales operations, leading to the elimination of 4,000 jobs overseas and 1,000 in Japan by this September. The cuts come to just under 7 percent of its global workforce of 76,000.
...
Komori did not indicate exactly how much production capacity for color film would be cut, but he said all three of the company's major factories in South Carolina, the Netherlands and Japan would be affected by the restructuring.
...
Komori said the departure of Konica Minolta could be seen as a positive for both Fuji Photo and Kodak as it will mean one less competitor even if the market was expected to keep contracting by about 20 percent over the next few years.

Konica Minolta estimates its share of the global film market at just under 20 percent. Fuji Photo sees its share at 35 percent, while Kodak, which has been downsizing its film operations, is thought to control about 45 percent.
...
Now, what I find most interesting in the selected quotes above is that CEO Komuri is the one saying this - he seldom makes public announcements. This is serious bidness.

Now, for the good news. This follows on the heels of the recent statement by Fuji about their commitment to film:


Quote:
Unlike Konica Minolta, Komori said Fuji Photo had no intention of withdrawing from the market, partly because it had a social responsibility to keep on producing camera film, but also because demand was not expected to dry up completely.
A social responsibility? That's a new one on me. I like it, but I'm not sure what to make of it. A public corporation has a fiduciary responsibility to its stockholders. Fuji is neither a non-profit nor a pro bono company. So what's with the social responsibility all of a sudden?

Quote:
"Digital is not almighty. There are still lots of people that value the expressive qualities of film. The fans of film will not disappear," Komori said, adding that color paper had a solid future due to healthy demand for digital prints.
Very carefully worded. He said that film has lots of fans. True. He also says that the fans are not going to go away. Also true. Then he says that color PAPER is not going away. He didn't say a word about film - he lets the reader draw their own conclusion. Clever.

So that's it. Thought you'd want to know. We now return you to your previously-scheduled 'film will live forever' mantra, already in progress.

Best Regards,

Bill Mattocks
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Old 01-31-2006   #2
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Bill,

Don’t you think that a "social responsibility” is not that far fetched? I mean doesn’t there have to be some film somewhere? Perhaps Fuji is pointing to a separation of its film business, like we’ve seen with some of the European companies. I for one really like NPH and NPZ. I hope they at least continue to manufacture the pro lineup of films.

Jeff C.
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Old 01-31-2006   #3
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Interesting stuff and I like the disclaimer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bmattock
A social responsibility? That's a new one on me. I like it, but I'm not sure what to make of it. A public corporation has a fiduciary responsibility to its stockholders. Fuji is neither a non-profit nor a pro bono company. So what's with the social responsibility all of a sudden?
This is a very Japanese social attitude; more from the older generation but still...Without seeing the statements in Japanese, I'm guessing he means it is Giri. Read this http://japanese.about.com/library/weekly/aa071497.htm for a start to understanding it.

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Old 01-31-2006   #4
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I rather suspect that how you interpret this news will depend on whether your glass is half full or half empty
 

Old 01-31-2006   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by childers-jk
Bill,

Don’t you think that a "social responsibility” is not that far fetched? I mean doesn’t there have to be some film somewhere? Perhaps Fuji is pointing to a separation of its film business, like we’ve seen with some of the European companies. I for one really like NPH and NPZ. I hope they at least continue to manufacture the pro lineup of films.

Jeff C.
Jeff,

It's not that I think that the concept of 'social responsibility' for a public corporation is far-fetched, it is just that is such a fuzzy concept. A company would say that they have a social responsibility to help pollute less - or to employ disadvantaged workers - or to not do layoffs willy-nilly - or to provide outplacement asssistance for displaced workers - and so on. One hears that sort of thing all the time, and part of the value that a company has is an intangible known as 'Good Will' so I'm cool with all of that.

I'm not sure what the social responsibility is to continue to produce film, is all. Not that producing film is not a good thing - hell, I'm all for it! Just puzzled by the wording. And things may be different for a company traded in Japan.

Anyway, I am in favor of the continued production of photographic films - all my doom and gloom has been quoting what is being reported, interpreting it (some say I've been way too pessimistic) and here lately - I confess to having been a bit 'in yer face' with it, if only because I was so heckled for my predictions, but pretty much every one of them has come true. But I need to stop that part of it - gloating makes me seem like I *want* film to die, which I do not. I'll continue to report and make interpretations as it seems warranted to me.

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Old 01-31-2006   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by childers-jk
Bill,

Don’t you think that a "social responsibility” is not that far fetched? I mean doesn’t there have to be some film somewhere?

Jeff C.

You think there has to be film somewhere?? Why?

There will only be film as long as there is a market. Which there still is, it's just becoming niche..

Incidentally, I think that there will always be a niche demand for film. I saw a website the other day where someone had recently made some photographs using the wet colloidion process. If that's still around, I reckon film will be with us for quite a while.

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Old 01-31-2006   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bmattock
A public corporation has a fiduciary responsibility to its stockholders. Fuji is neither a non-profit nor a pro bono company. So what's with the social responsibility all of a sudden?
Here in Europe it is not a completely new thing, traditionally a company has some moral responsibility to it stakeholders as well (and film users are definitely stakeholders here)
Unfortunately this has started to fade in recent years and probably in a not too far future even here companies will consider themselves responsible only to their shareholders; at the end of the day morals don't make money, so why bother...
 

Old 01-31-2006   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fgianni
at the end of the day morals don't make money, so why bother...
Last night, I got a rare treat - my wife went upstairs to her PC and left me to watch "Law & Order," on TV, which normally I never get to see because she hates it. Anway, last quip of the episode last night was "You mean money beats morals?" The response was "Every day, and twice on Sunday."

We live in the world we have, not the world we wish we had. Sadly, at times.

Still, I think to have morals, one must have a soul. Corporations got no soul. That isn't a bad thing, it just is what it is.

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Old 01-31-2006   #9
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Bill

What's interesting is that Konica Minolta estimated its market share at 20% and found this an unsustainable proposition. The colour film market is shrinking by 20% annually. It won't take long for Fuji and Kodak's share of a shrinking market to be roughly where Konica Minolta were last month, in absolute number of units sold. Perhaps 2 years? Let's hope by then that both Kodak and Fuji's restructuring will be complete and they have a viable business model and the appetite to continue.

FWIW there are a few other small manufacturers who might benefit from this *right-sizing*, but will the processing machines be in Walmart and elsewhere to process what film is left?
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Old 01-31-2006   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zuikologist
FWIW there are a few other small manufacturers who might benefit from this *right-sizing*, but will the processing machines be in Walmart and elsewhere to process what film is left?
My biggest concern is that in a typical scenario where the 'big boys' exit the market, there are a number of smaller companies that can run leaner and meaner who are ready to rush in and fight for a piece of a smaller pie - which they can survive on quite nicely, thank you. I put Ilford into this group - a company that is filling a niche after being spun off to die and then the employees purchased the assets and went back at it with renewed efficiencies and lower expections.

But I don't see the smaller inheritors of the Kodak/Fuji massive cuts. When those monstrous factories shut down, who will step in and agree to run them? They're not a limited smaller set of factories and etc - they're all spread out and have huge infrastructure and support needs. Kodak, in particular - any company that bought their assets would also be buying into a monster EPA cleanup liability for when the plants finally DO close for the last time, to the best of my knowledge.

So although sometimes there is a market for smaller operators to step up and take over that shrinking-but-viable market and make a go of it, I fear that in this case, when the monsters shut down, it all stops - even with unfilled demand.

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Old 01-31-2006   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iyidin_Kyeimo
You think there has to be film somewhere?? Why?
Because I see more people looking sideways at digital. Not only photographers, but the general population.

Bill,

I feel that some companies may start taking this stance with the increase use of technology. Not to start a banter about US society as a whole, but even fast food places are taking a more social role in society by offering healthier foods. Now thins may be short lived, but it has taken place. Question though, was it because of a market influence? Did they suddenly start making healthy food because they didn't sell enough burgers?

I apologize, as I think I have gone off the topic of photography completely. Bill, if you wish to continue, pleas PM me.

fgianni,

I hope that attitude never changes. It has been an influence here in the US and I hope it continues.

Thanks,

Jeff C.
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Old 01-31-2006   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by childers-jk
Don’t you think that a "social responsibility” is not that far fetched?
Hmmmm ... am I maybe hearing a very subtle slam on Big Yellow here? Perhaps Fuji implying that they will be the ones who support those who supported them, while Big Yellow abandons them?
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Old 01-31-2006   #13
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Bill,

Having dealt a lot with Japanese corporations involved in the imaging business, I would disagree some with the concept they have no "soul".

Traditional Japanese managers are trained and motivated to produce for the good of the "group" and the "team". In many instances, customers of their products are considered part of the "team" and therefore considered in a much different fashion than they are in the US.

Additionally, if Fuji were to pull out from the Market entirely, as the number one player in Japan, I think this might be considered dishonorable by many traditional executives in Nikon, Cosina, Canon. Nikon did not totally quit the film market, they downsized. Canon has not made much noise in this area. Cosina is becoming a force, even if as an OEM supplier.

So I would expect that film will be available in Japan for a long time. It might not be exported, and it might have a higher cost, but it would not go away.

Having experiences the growth of the Macintosh compared to traditional pre-press as a supplier to a major Japanese corporation, old products that were superceded by technology had to have a specified exit strategy and at least a minimum 10 year spare parts agreement.

This was totally misunderstood and almost incomprehensible to our US engineers who were so used to telling sales - "Oh yeah, we stopped making that last year - they have to buy a whole new system"

Just my 2 cents from personal experience.

I always wanted to go to the photo stores in Japan for GAS and film. Maybe we will have to start making annual pilgrimages with lead bags.
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Old 01-31-2006   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by childers-jk
fgianni,
I hope that attitude never changes. It has been an influence here in the US and I hope it continues.
Hmm, corporations losing their social responsibility in Europe, and gaining it in the USA?

I'll see how it goes, but soon might be the time to think of moving across the pond.
 

Old 01-31-2006   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bmattock
Still, I think to have morals, one must have a soul. Corporations got no soul. That isn't a bad thing, it just is what it is.
On this I disagree, Corporations operate in the society, take advantage of society, and make profit from society; the fact that most of them don't think they should have some sort of social responsibility to me looks like (and smells like) a bad thing.
 

Old 01-31-2006   #16
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Fuji killed the film division today in The Netherlands (in the city Tilburg). 250 people are losing there job. The production of film is being concentrated in Japan, hope this doesn't effect the pricing to much.
Only paper and offset materials remain to be produced over here in the Netherlands.
 

Old 01-31-2006   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derkduit@xs4all
Fuji killed the film division today in The Netherlands (in the city Tilburg). 250 people are losing there job. The production of film is being concentrated in Japan, hope this doesn't effect the pricing to much.
Only paper and offset materials remain to be produced over here in the Netherlands.
It is really sad when people lose their job, however to survive in this competitive world companies need to be pragmatic so I fear that we are going to see more job losses in the future.
 

Old 01-31-2006   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by paulfitz
Bill,

Having dealt a lot with Japanese corporations involved in the imaging business, I would disagree some with the concept they have no "soul".
We could be talking about semantics here - so let me be clear. Corporations behave in their own best interest and that of their stockholders. That is true in any nation that I'm aware of. Corporations are 'persons' in the eyes of the law for many intents, but they are not 'people'. They have no soul. Any sense of civic or social responsibility that a corporation displays is a product of the people who run it.

Now, that may be different in Japan - I only lived there for 18 months, and that was in the 1980's.

Corporatations may have a stated philosophy - but in my experience, it only lasts as long as a) it is in their financial best interest and b) the people who hold that belief remain in charge of that corporation.

Quote:
Traditional Japanese managers are trained and motivated to produce for the good of the "group" and the "team". In many instances, customers of their products are considered part of the "team" and therefore considered in a much different fashion than they are in the US.
This may be so. However, the fiduciary responsibility remains to the shareholders, does it not?

Quote:
Additionally, if Fuji were to pull out from the Market entirely, as the number one player in Japan, I think this might be considered dishonorable by many traditional executives in Nikon, Cosina, Canon. Nikon did not totally quit the film market, they downsized. Canon has not made much noise in this area. Cosina is becoming a force, even if as an OEM supplier.
You may be right - this is a concept that I did not consider.

Quote:
So I would expect that film will be available in Japan for a long time. It might not be exported, and it might have a higher cost, but it would not go away.
So how did KonicaMinolta announce that they were leaving film and photography entirely without dishonor? I'm not accusing, just curious.

Quote:
Having experiences the growth of the Macintosh compared to traditional pre-press as a supplier to a major Japanese corporation, old products that were superceded by technology had to have a specified exit strategy and at least a minimum 10 year spare parts agreement.

This was totally misunderstood and almost incomprehensible to our US engineers who were so used to telling sales - "Oh yeah, we stopped making that last year - they have to buy a whole new system"

Just my 2 cents from personal experience.

I always wanted to go to the photo stores in Japan for GAS and film. Maybe we will have to start making annual pilgrimages with lead bags.
Excellent perspectives, thank you!

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Old 01-31-2006   #19
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Thanks for the update, Bill. I'm one of those optimists who sees this as industry consolidation but not the death of film. As long as there are customers demanding film, even just a market niche, there will be a supply. But here's a question: should we all be buying our film from one maker, i.e. Ilford or Fuji, to pool our resources and not spread our dollar "votes" too thinly?
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Old 01-31-2006   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derkduit@xs4all
Fuji killed the film division today in The Netherlands (in the city Tilburg). 250 people are losing there job. The production of film is being concentrated in Japan, hope this doesn't effect the pricing to much.
Only paper and offset materials remain to be produced over here in the Netherlands.
I'm sorry to hear it. In the US, Fuji has a film-production facility in Greenwood, South Carolina, which employs 1,500. I am trying to ascertain the status of the plant - no luck so far.

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Old 01-31-2006   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sooner
Thanks for the update, Bill. I'm one of those optimists who sees this as industry consolidation but not the death of film. As long as there are customers demanding film, even just a market niche, there will be a supply. But here's a question: should we all be buying our film from one maker, i.e. Ilford or Fuji, to pool our resources and not spread our dollar "votes" too thinly?
I'm sure you've heard my opinion on the 'supply and demand' concept as not being applicable, so I'll leave that out and hope for the best, like you.

I think we should buy what film we prefer and we can get, as usual. I know this sounds pessimistic, but film was a 3 billion dollar industry - the purchases made by a few tens of thousands of enthusiasts around the world aren't going to influence much. I'm sorry, wish I felt differently.

Some have said that we should buy from those companies who support us, and that's a reasonable thought - so Ilford and Fuji, right? But really, I don't feel it matters enough to make a difference, so I buy what I want and can afford, pretty much.

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Old 01-31-2006   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fgianni
On this I disagree, Corporations operate in the society, take advantage of society, and make profit from society; the fact that most of them don't think they should have some sort of social responsibility to me looks like (and smells like) a bad thing.
Corporations are run by people, and those people control whatever social conscience the corporation appears to have or not have. People are mostly skunks; greedy, self-centered, short-term thinkers, and ego-driven. Their corporations show that. But the real culprit of society IS society. We just would rather have a scapegoat than to realize that in the end, we're all trash.

As Pogo said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

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Old 01-31-2006   #23
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So...two large companies face shrinking sales in a business where there's already too much product and not enough demand to absorb all those products. Announced remedies include the usual stuff: closing factories and a large cut in the payroll, streamlining/"right-sizing" development and production. One company even mulls the idea of eliminating one product subcategory altogether. Wall Street grumbles and takes said companies' stock price down another peg or two. I don't know what any of you guys drive, but...

(Oh...sorry, folks, I thought I was in the Domestic Car Enthusiasts Forum!)

You get my drift: this sort of thing is going around in several different circles. For the time being GM and Ford will have to figure out the best way to make a buck in the business they're best known for, because leaving that business would likely mean effectively going out of business. Same deal with Kodak and Fuji (and camera companies are hardly immune here, either - as Kyocera, Konica Minolta, and Olympus discovered the hard way, when anyone can slap their name on a digital camera, charge a lowball price and call themselves a major player in the biz - and be treated as such - having an sterling reputation won't mean much). Ilford has figured this out before anyone else (having been the first to tackle the ugly part of "transition", and head-on). Agfa(Photo) apparently didn't deal with it, and we all saw what happened there. Fuji is still dealing with it, but the little green boxes keep on comin' (yay!). Old Yeller is dealing with it...and dealing with it...and...well, I think the little yellow boxes will also keep on comin', but just how all this shakes down in Rochester is anybody's guess. But they won't stop making film cold. In a sense, they can't afford to. They haven't a lot else unique in terms of product, and while the market for that product is obviously reduced, it ain't miniscule (yet), so they have to make it work for as long as possible, or at least until the Next Big Thing comes along for them (and I sure wouldn't bet the farm on that happening soon - we're not talking about Apple here).

Take a deep breath, walk around the block/yard a few times, then load some more film.


- Barrett (who understands the car/film analogy isn't exact, but still somewhat relevant)
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Old 01-31-2006   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amateriat
Old Yeller is dealing with it...and dealing with it...and...well, I think the little yellow boxes will also keep on comin', but just how all this shakes down in Rochester is anybody's guess. But they won't stop making film cold.
They *said* they would stop making film. Several times, and most recently was yesterday. A few weeks ago, their CEO said yellow box film was history in two years. Are you saying they're not telling the truth and will continue to make film?

Quote:
In a sense, they can't afford to. They haven't a lot else unique in terms of product, and while the market for that product is obviously reduced, it ain't miniscule (yet), so they have to make it work for as long as possible, or at least until the Next Big Thing comes along for them (and I sure wouldn't bet the farm on that happening soon - we're not talking about Apple here).
If they are losing a billion dollars a year (Kodak), and most of that loss comes from massive sales drops in film, they can't continue - it is pretty much that simple. Their own financials, released yesterday, showed in black and white that most of their operating revenue came from digital sales, and they lost their shirts on film.

Quote:
Take a deep breath, walk around the block/yard a few times, then load some more film.

- Barrett (who understands the car/film analogy isn't exact, but still somewhat relevant)
No one is getting hysterical here. Just reporting the news and interpreting what that means to us with logic and intelligence.

Best Regards,

Bill Mattocks
__________________
Immanentizing the eschaton since 1987.
 

Old 01-31-2006   #25
ch1
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fgianni
Here in Europe it is not a completely new thing, traditionally a company has some moral responsibility to it stakeholders as well (and film users are definitely stakeholders here)
Unfortunately this has started to fade in recent years and probably in a not too far future even here companies will consider themselves responsible only to their shareholders; at the end of the day morals don't make money, so why bother...
B.M. obviously does not accept that there are other models of capitalism besides the American one (and I am an American saying this). It is very conceivable that a Japanese corporation will continue in a business line that offers little profit or even some level of losses iout of regard for the users of that product or business line.

Obviously no firm can have "just losers" - but Japanese and other non-American shareholders do not have the same perspective Ameicans do - and are more willing to accept that their firm operates within a larger social framework.

Sorry to come in on this - I try to avoid these threads.
 
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