Eastman Kodak, which turned photography into a mass-market pastime a century ago, is quickly making up for a sluggish start in filmless...

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Eastman Kodak, which turned photography into a mass-market pastime a century ago, is quickly making up for a sluggish start in filmless photography in the 21st century.

Its digital sales surged 40 percent in the fourth quarter, and this year will eclipse revenue from film and other iconic, chemical-based businesses for the first time.

The world’s biggest film manufacturer posted a preliminary loss of $12 million in the October-December period, mainly because of one-time costs to cover job cuts. But its results, reflecting robust gains in the digital arena, handily beat Wall Street forecasts.

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The transition from analog to digital imaging has been painful. A year ago, Kodak said it would eliminate 12,000 to 15,000 jobs by 2007, shrinking its work force to around 50,000 from a peak of 145,300 in 1988.

In the fourth quarter, Kodak lost the equivalent of 4 cents a share, compared with a profit of $19 million, or 7 cents a share, a year ago.

Excluding restructuring costs totaling $395 million, or $1.07 a share, and other items, profit was $236 million, or 78 cents a share, beating the consensus estimate of 66 cents a share. Sales rose 3 percent to $3.765 billion from $3.648 billion a year earlier.

For all of 2004, Kodak earned $649 million, or $2.16 a share, up sharply from $265 million, or 92 cents a share, in 2003. Sales rose 5 percent to $13.52 billion from $12.9 billion.

Kodak shares rose 11 cents to close at $31.66 yesterday.


Nintendo

Game maker lowers forecast for year

Nintendo’s earnings nearly doubled for the first nine months of its fiscal year on the back of the success of its new two-screen, handheld video-game player, the Japanese company reported yesterday.

But Nintendo, which makes Super Mario and Pokémon games, lowered its sales and profit forecasts for the full fiscal year ending March 31, citing expected declines in sales of other machines besides the hit Nintendo DS.

Group profit at the Kyoto-based company surged to $658 million for the April-December period from $338 million a year ago.

Sales totaled $4.06 billion for the nine months, down from $4.27 billion a year ago.

The company did not break down quarterly earnings.

An unfavorable foreign-exchange rate is also expected to depress sales and profits, it said.

Nintendo lowered its sales forecast for the fiscal year to $5.04 billion, down from the previous $5.24 billion.

It expects a $679 million profit for the year, down 22 percent from Nintendo’s $873 million forecast in November.


ConocoPhillips

Strong oil, gas prices ignite quarter’s profit

ConocoPhillips, the nation’s third-biggest oil company, said it more than doubled its fourth-quarter profit due to high prices for crude oil and natural gas and better refining margins.

Houston-based ConocoPhillips reported fourth-quarter profit of $2.43 billion, or $3.44 a share, for the October-December period, up from $1.02 billion, or $1.48 a share, a year ago.

Wall Street analysts had expected $3.07 per share.

ConocoPhillips shares rose $1.51, or 1.7 percent, to $90.41 yesterday.


Media

2 major publishers cautious on future

Two major newspaper publishers reported higher fourth-quarter earnings yesterday. But industry leader Gannett noted the gain was driven by election-season advertising at its broadcast properties, and Knight Ridder cautioned that its first quarter would be “challenging.”

The results underscore the continuing laggardly state of the newspaper business, which has yet to pull out of a long slow patch despite signs of strength in the economy.

The industry is also plagued by concerns over declining circulation and a lack of major catalysts for growth.

Investors were disappointed in the reports and drove down shares of both companies as well as most of the newspaper sector. Knight Ridder’s stock fell 68 cents to close at $65.74 yesterday, while Gannett’s slipped 19 cents to $80.

In addition to political advertising, Gannett noted other unusual effects contributed to the gain in fourth-quarter and full-year results, including several acquisitions and the weakness of the dollar. The latter increased the dollar value of earnings from its U.K. newspaper operations.

Gannett’s profit rose 5.6 percent in the fourth quarter to $378.1 million, or $1.47 a share, as sales rose 7.7 percent to $1.96 billion.

Knight Ridder, which owns 49.5 percent of The Seattle Times Co. and whose newspapers include the San Jose Mercury News and The Miami Herald, also posted higher profit in the fourth quarter but remained cautious about the current one.

Fourth-quarter net was up 8 percent to $107.2 million, or $1.38 a share. Sales rose 3 percent to $819.4 million.

CEO Tony Ridder noted that the results reflected better operational performance but also a tax benefit that amounted to 9 cents a share.

Total ad revenue was up 4.7 percent in the quarter, but circulation revenues fell 3.7 percent.

Compiled from The Associated Press