updated 10/28/2003 6:26:49 PM ET 2003-10-28T23:26:49

Eastman Kodak Co., struggling with a three-year slump in film sales as it tries to bolster its digital businesses, posted a 63 percent drop in third-quarter profit Wednesday, but handily beat Wall Street’s earnings forecast.

The world's largest photography company said it earned $122 million, or 42 cents a share, down from $334 million, or $1.15 a share, in last year’s third quarter.

Excluding restructuring and other one-time items, however, earnings were $252 million, or 88 cents a share — that beat the consensus forecast of 57 cents a share among analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

Sales rose 3 percent to $3.447 billion from $3.352 billion a year ago.

Last month, Kodak slashed its annual dividend by 72 percent to fund a major shift away from its ailing conventional film business and into the fast-growing but highly competitive digital arena.

The company expects more than $1 billion in digital imaging sales this year. By year-end, industry analysts think digital cameras, which record snapshots on computer chips, could begin outselling traditional film cameras for the first time in the United States.

Kodak took a charge of $125 million, or 44 cents a share, in the third quarter to cover the cost of job cuts. It is eliminating up to 6,000 jobs this year, which will shrink its payroll to around 62,000 from a peak of 136,500 in 1983.

In its photography division, Kodak said U.S. revenues fell 4 percent to $1.01 billion even while sales of consumer digital cameras surged 117 percent. Health imaging sales edged up 1 percent to $571 million and commercial imaging sales rose 6 percent to $373 million.

Kodak controls about two-thirds of the U.S. film market but profits have been hit by falling prices and a drop in sales dating back to August 2000.

For the first nine months of the year, Kodak earned $246 million, or 86 cents a share, down from $657 million, or $2.25 in the first three quarters of 2002. Sales rose to $9.54 billion from $9.39 billion.

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