Eastman Kodak to eliminate 15,000 jobs

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Eastman Kodak Co. today unveiled plans to reduce its workforce by 12,000 to 15,000 jobs and take up to $1.7 billion in charges over three years, as the company implements its strategic plan to transition away from film and to digital products.

The worldwide job cuts represent approximately 20 percent of the company's total workforce and could result in total savings of $800 million to $1 billion by 2007.

In September, Kodak announced its intention to invest more resources in digital markets, such as its Health Imaging group.

John LaBella, vice president of Health Imaging and corporate director of worldwide marketing and communications, said there "will not be any wholesale job reductions" within Kodak's Health Imaging group, which he added, continues to be "one of Kodak's growth businesses."

Kodak's cost-savings initiatives, such as job reductions, LaBella said, will allow Kodak to help fund investments in other business segments.

"Health Imaging will be one of the beneficiaries of the actions Kodak will take," he said. "We will add people when these kinds of investments are made."

With its Health Imaging acquisitions in 2003, LaBella said Kodak added "in aggregate a fairly large number of people who came into the organization. While we add in some places, like any well-run business, we will continually assess our cost position and look for opportunities to gain efficiencies. Sometimes that will be done by selectively reducing jobs."

Health Imaging has approximately 4,500 employees worldwide.

Today's announcement follows a string of employment reductions dating back five years. Since 1998, Kodak has eliminated approximately 22,000 jobs, bringing total employment to approximately 64,000 this year.

In an interview with Reuters news service, Kodak Chief Executive Daniel A. Carp added that the company plans to pare down debt by approximately $600 million this year and decelerate its acquisition activities. (See Kodak's 2003 and fourth quarter financial results in today's Health Imaging News "financial news" section.)

"Last year we committed about $1 billion [to acquisitions], and right now we see a lower level of activity," Carp told Reuters.