Magazine Article


Agfa Execs Bravely Face Dealers at NY Show
Mini Lab 2005

Agfa Photo logo

• A film production facility would be of little interest (buggy whips, anybody?).
• The Agfa wholesale equipment business with state-of-the-art digital machines may be attractive to Fuji as they use this equipment in all of the 17 Fujicolor labs in the U.S. and others elsewhere.
• The Agfa minilab product line has moved beyond its loyal independent dealer base to acceptance by such mass users as Walgreens and could be attractive to the likes of Photo-Me or San Marco Imaging, both struggling to make an impact in the U.S.

Muddying up the waters is the ownership of the Agfa trade name, certainly a significant element to the package. The name was apparently licensed by Agfa-Gevaert to AgfaPhoto Holding when the photo business was sold and had no specific dollar value attached to it. Yet AgfaPhoto Holding has put an eyebrow-raising price of about $48 million to anyone who wants to buy it. No takers yet—this could have been the deal-breaker in trying to come to terms with Photo-Me.

Bing Liem's AgfaPhoto USA (as well as his operations in Canada and Mexico) are solvent, according to Bing. He is still receiving goods from Germany and has inventory of parts and product though some holes have developed. Of course, if Agfa ceases to exist, he won't have anything to distribute. San Marco Imaging, which picked up the pieces of the Gretag line and unveiled its own MarKo minilabs at last year's PMA, is trying to build up U.S. distribution and might find a fully staffed group, such as Bing's operation, a way to break into the market big-time. Photo-Me could also benefit from a going operation.

The survival of AgfaPhoto USA is not guaranteed, certainly. Each of the worldwide distributors is a separate entity. AgfaPhoto UK went into insolvency on Oct. 11. AgfaPhoto Australia stated that administrators have been appointed to deal with its problems. No doubt others will fall by the wayside as the problems in Germany remain unresolved. The fabric that is Agfa is unraveling.

Agfa's competitors, while giving polite lip service and sympathy to Agfa's misfortune, are already looking at the potential for themselves. Fuji Hunt, for one, is out there with the message of how easy it is to convert from Agfa chemistry to its own. While some may view this as a bit opportunistic, the body not having yet been buried (and may not be), it does serve to give some comfort to owners of Agfa equipment that they have options. No doubt others in the industry are also drawing up plans to pick up some pieces.

With all of this chaos surrounding the Agfa situation, with so many questions unanswerable, with the future rather bleak, the decision to appear at PhotoPlus East and face the dealers has to be applauded. Hopefully, it will pay off for those individuals who could just as easily have stayed home for those three days. ptn