The European Endeavour: Agfa turns 50 today (Agfa-Gevaert that is)

Discussion in 'Industry News' started by AgX, Jul 1, 2014.

  1. AgX

    AgX Member

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    At the end of the 50's there were growing markets, but the same time growing demand on technological finesse. Especially with a dominating manufacturer around as Kodak.

    For the west-german New-Agfa that caused the buying up of smaller manufacturers competing with overseas company doing the same in Germany. And striving for a final solution for their legal issues with their "mother", the east-german Old-Agfa. Which themselves were interested in such settlement too.

    But this would not be enough. So the idea came up again to form an alliance with their major european competitor: the belgian Gevaert.
    Both companies were of about equal size, both in a strong process of growth. The same time they differed in the markets they meanwhile got their stronghold: Agfa was strongest with consumers, Gevaert with non consumer markets.


    In secrecy forms of collaboration were devised which ended in the merger of the two in 1964. Due to the legal situation then in Europe the founding of two new companies on shares was planned: Agfa-Gevaert AG and Gevaert-Agfa NV. Two entities in which Agfa and Gevaert put their plants whereas the shares of each entity were split 50/50.

    The general company name became Agfa-Gevaert which also became part of the new logo.


    A quite unique merger back then. A uniform company to the outside world, but actually two independant ones legally. The "fusion" was set in practice, by persons. The same persons controlling both companies. A difficult task with different national laws on executive boards, controlling boards, employees' participation in managemen. And the issue of language and culture, with hardly anyone in Germany speaking Flemish. Also the war was still on ones minds.


    Together a much stronger No. 2 in the western world emerged, gaining 25% of the production of Kodak.


    The same time the use of the brand name Gevaert was successively reduced until only Agfa was used in logos etc. Even at their flemish headquarters by now the name Gevaert is scarce.


    This true marriage existed until 1981. In 1979/80 the silver-crisis endangered the photochemical industries. A private speculator had bought up silver stocks to an extend that prices were exploding. Up to an extant that the annual cost of silver would be the same as Agfa-Gevaert's annual revenues. Silver that had to be financed. A situation that endangered the existance of Agfa-Gevaert, would not fresh money be brought in.

    At this situation the different family situations of the two marriage partners became important: Gevaert had put all their assets into Agfa-Gevaert. As Agfa did too. But Agfa was owned by the chemical concern Bayer. Bayer had the financial flexibility Gevaert was lacking. Thus Bayer dit an in-time investment to keep Agfa-Gevaert afloat. This new financial disbalance between the two partners at Agfa-Gevaert finally led to Bayer "paying-out" Gevaert, with Bayer shares.

    Gevaert then turned into a financial holding company linked to the photo-world only loosely via their Bayer shares.


    Agfa-Gevaert now was a german held company. But at the end of the 90's Bayer too lost interest in the photo-world in a beginning trend of the chemical industries to re-arrange themselves. So they started selling Agfa-Gevaert shares. Until in 2001 Agfa-Gevaert became a flemish company completely on public shares.


    In 2004 Agfa-Gevaert sold their consumer branch including the plants related to that market (all in Germany) to a start-up that mysteriously went bancrupt within short time.



    So, in a way, today one is back there where all started at Gevaert in 1964. But a standing most probably would not have been achieved, if one even had survived, would not have been that merger.
     
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  2. AgX

    AgX Member

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    I was reluctant to post this at all, as I experience a growing reluctance to historic matters of this kind here at Apug.
     
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  3. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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  4. Xmas

    Xmas Member

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    Hi

    No very interesting.

    I just missed out on Kodachrome I (10ASA).

    My uncle was using it on cine.

    Used HP3 for a long time.

    Noel
     
  5. Simon R Galley

    Simon R Galley Subscriber

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    Dear AGX,

    History is important :

    I have huge admiration for AGFA, the photo manufacturing world is a small one, and we have always had close relations. AGFA Photo made great products, had great technology, the Leuverkusen machine was a triumph, great people and its going away was very sad. Although as you probably know some of the AGFA finishing machines live on here at HARMAN.

    I still own and treasure my father's AGFA Camera that he owned and used for 30 years.

    You may or may not know that the then owner of ILFORD in 2004 made an offer to buy AGFA Photo
    ( for 1 Euro ) take on the laibilities and put ILFORD and AGFA together, many people here today including most of the current Board worked on that deal.

    Then a 'management buy out' that gave Gaveart much more came along and the rest, very sadly, is history.

    Simon. ILFORD photo / HARMAN technology Limited :
     
  6. Tom Kershaw

    Tom Kershaw Subscriber

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    If memory serves correctly that management buyout virtually disappeared and the Agfa films e.g. APX, RSX etc. went off the market rather fast.

    Tom
     
  7. munz6869

    munz6869 Subscriber

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    That's a really interesting story AgX! Thanks heaps for taking the time to write it here!

    Marc!
     
  8. AgX

    AgX Member

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    Thank you all.

    By purpose I did not comment on the Kodak/Agfa relation of today, 50 years later. There is enough bashing going on at other threads.

    To me that endeavour of merging two companies on a level of equality, bridging a border, a border actually on many fields, is the intriguing aspect. It was the only experiment of that kind that was successfull.
    For most people, being a consumer of photo products, only the Agfa-Leverkusen part was and is visible. Leading to a quite distorted view on Agfa-Gevaert.
     
  9. AgX

    AgX Member

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    The history of this shortlived (production) company still has to be written.

    Calling that interlude mysterious is the most diplomatic way, I can think of.


    Whatever was behind that, it practically ended that belgo-german endeavour. As even after the loss of any german control the major plants were up to then still devided between the two countries (nonwithstanding the many plants in other countries).
    Now there only is one Agfa plant still in Germany.
     
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  10. bsdunek

    bsdunek Subscriber

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    Thanks for posting. I am always interested in the history of famous (and not so famous) companies. I don't know who makes the Agfa film today, but I find the Agfa Vista pretty nice.
     
  11. AgX

    AgX Member

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    Agfa films are still made Agfa.

    The AgfaPhoto branded ones meanwhile by two other companies.
     
  12. AgX

    AgX Member

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    In hindsight:

    How would Agfa have evolved if Orwo would have been given the flexibility and financial resources to keep up with the pace of time?

    They had established their new brand very well, especially in emerging countries. But failed to gain ground in other markets. Finally loosing most western markets.
     
  13. Trail Images

    Trail Images Subscriber

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    AgX.....thanks for the look back on the bit of history with AGFA. Even an old guy like me can still appreciate how things came to where we are these days.......:smile:
     
  14. Regular Rod

    Regular Rod Member

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    A very interesting post and subsequent thread. My favourite paper of all time was AGFA Record Rapid, which I trusted more than any other to make the results I wanted. That trust led, these days, to me being quite relaxed about buying old AGFA folding cameras for 120 film. Their quality far exceeds the cheap prices they currently command...

    richard
     
  15. Alan Johnson

    Alan Johnson Subscriber

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    I believe this spin off was called Agfaphoto and left a big stockpile of frozen master rolls and coated 35mm film that has been sold cheaply for years.On the plus side, it was cheap film and on the minus side it may have affected competitors sales.Their APX 100 was originally recognisible by the red dot on the box but this seems to be used by its successor film not made by Agfaphoto.
     
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  16. AgX

    AgX Member

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    Meanwhile if designated as "new emuslion" the AgfaPhoto branded APX films no longer have been made in Leverkusen nor are identical to them.

    That red dot is the logo related to AgfaPhoto the resting legal entity from that demise.
    Whereas the red rhomb still is the logo of Agfa.

    As the red dot is meanwhile used for rebranding only, be careful what you buy under this designation.
     
  17. miha

    miha Member

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    Great post, AgX.


    Can you perhaps share more info on which smaller companies were bought by Agfa? Perutz, Mimosa, Hauff,..? I would like to know more.
     
  18. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    I've mentioned this before, but is appropriate in this thread. My uncle was mustered out of the US Army in '46 or '47--I forgot which. Then he did his college bit and graduated. Subsequently met a nice girl (my Mother's sister), got married and they had children. The typical American dream at the time. Then he got a job as a sales rep for Agfa Ansco, selling the German-made cameras. He admired them, so he got a job selling them. Ironic that he went from killing Germans just a few years earlier, to making friends with them and selling their products. I still have the Ansco Memar he sold my Grandfather way back then.
     
  19. AgX

    AgX Member

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    I wanted to keep things simple.
    The take-overs were complex. Some took place indirectly. Also secrecy was an issue.
    Furthermore one has to differ between taken over plants which were closed, or went on with their production with the respective grades between.
     
  20. miha

    miha Member

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    Do you perhaps know the faith of the aforementioned companies. Were they already defunct by the 50's or were they taken over by the big one(s).
     
  21. AgX

    AgX Member

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    They all were alive wehen being taken over in the 60s.

    Perutz even lived on as an Agfa brand after film manufacture at the Perutz plant was stopped.
     
  22. miha

    miha Member

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    Thanks. I remember the Perutz slide film I shot in the 90s.
     
  23. AgX

    AgX Member

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    The history of the european photochemical industry is complex even letting aside those small enterprises from before WWI.
    I know one plant where 4 manufactures produced in succession.
     
  24. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    I sometimes wonder where German companies would be today had the leadership stopped the Blitzkrieg at some point while they were ahead. Germany had managed to regain what was lost in the previous war, and their earlier boundaries and more, not to mention its industrial might. It really was a shame to turn the country to rubble like that. But if "what ifs" were gold, diamonds, and rubies, we'd all be rich.
     
  25. ME Super

    ME Super Member

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    Thank you, AgX, for that informative post. In my youth, I only shot Kodak, since that was what was readily available here in the US. Now it's mostly Fuji (I love E-6), Ilford for B&W, and some of the Agfa-Gevaert made films (Wittner Chrome 200D and the Rollei IR400s come to mind). For color negative, I still do Kodak, though I generally shoot very little color negative.

    Agfa-Gevaert still have some top-notch films, even if they're only sold to others for finishing.