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No longer the first choice in cameras, or filmImage: AP

Germany's Agfa Nearing the End

DW staff (jen)
October 20, 2005

It appears iconic German consumer photography firm Agfa Photo will likely face liquidation at the end of the year, a victim of digital technology and missed opportunity.


Stalled takeover talks with the British company Photo-Me International (PMI) will most likely spell the end of the road for the traditional German photo company.

AGFA Film vor dem Aus
Buying Agfa filmImage: AP

Agfa Photo has been operating under bankruptcy protection since May. The firm said it will end operations by the end of the year, after using up its warehoused materials. Its 1,700 workers will likely be out of a job.

Downfall of an icon

The advent of digital photography spelled Agfa Photo's doom. The firm's hesitation in acting on the changing market for digital laboratory equipment resulted in plummeting sales. Belgian parent company Agfa Gevaert sold the photo business to financier Hartmut Emans in the fall of 2004.

But Emans was unable to find a buyer, and its last suitor, PMI, appears to have ended talks permanently after Agfa rejected its offer late Tuesday night. The final PMI offer did not guarantee any jobs and is "no longer open to discussion," according to Agfa Photo chief Hans-Gerd Jauch told news agencies.

Red light for Agfa photoImage: dpa

Now the company is focusing on selling off smaller chunks of its business as a last ditch effort. But whether the measures can save any jobs is uncertain.

The end of an era

In May, an earlier round of takeover talks with US financial investor Cerberus ran aground after the parties couldn't agree on trademark issues. Now it seems the same trademark question is at the heart of the Photo Me deal. Holding company chief Emans will only license the Agfa name if he is paid for it in cash.

Along with Leica and Rollei, Agfa was one of the legendary names in German photography. Founded in 1867, the company was at the forefront in developing color film in the 1920s. In 1959, it reached a photography milestone by introducing the first fully automatic camera onto the market.

But like the other German legends, Agfa found it difficult to adjust to automatic focus cameras and then digital cameras that made their high-quality craftsmanship and high prices uncecessary. The company focused on image printing in recent years, but never recovered.

While Agfa Photo was under increasing market pressure due to the massive changes in consumer habits, the company also had internally strained relations with parent Agfa Gevaert.

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