Eastman Kodak Co., the camera maker locked in a battle with Polaroid Corp. over the instant-camera market, yesterday said it made about $7 million less in 1977 than in 1976.

The company said its net profit for the year was $643 million ($3.99 a share) compared with $650 million ($4.03) in 1976. Sales were $5.9 billion in 1977 compared with $5.4 billion the year before.

Kodak's fourth-quater net earnings included $17.2 million from two non-recurring items - the sale of property in France and a gain on an insurance recovery resulting from damage to property at Texas Eastman Co. Also there was an unusually low effective tax rate for the quarter a year ago.

Koday announced Wednesday that it will lower its suggested retail price from $39.95 to $34.95 on its instant camera, the Handler. Polaroid's One-step instant camera carries a suggeste retail price of $39.95. Polaroid has said it will not match Kodak's price cut.

Pre-share profits earned by Bell & Howell, the optical firm, jumped to $2.22 a share in 1976 and the profit in that year was reduced by losses of $1.51 a share on operations since discontinued. But sales of continuing operations rose to $491.57 million form $437.44 million.

Fourth-quarter profit was $3.78 million (66 cents a share) on sales of $13884 milion compared with a 1976 profit on continuing operations of [WORD ILLEGIBLE] cents a share but an overall loss of $3.5 million with [WORD ILLEGIBLE] million in sales from continuing operations.

General Telephone & Electronics Corp. yesterday reported gains of 24 percent in 1977 earnings and 14 percent in sales.

Translating financial statements of GTE's Canadian telephone subsidiaries into U.S. dollars added 22 cents a share to earnings for the year and five cents a share to fourth-quarter results.

GTE earned $559.6 million($3.91 a share) last year on $7.68 billion in sales compared with 1976 earnings of $453.3 million ($3.29) on $6.75 billion in sales.

Fourth-quarter net inocme wa $144.8 million ($1.06) a year earlier $147.8 million ($1.03) compared with Sales increased from $1,8 billion tofa2M1 billion.

Continued growth in telephone revenued and earnings and a strong upswing in product sales generated the improved showing, according to Theodore F. Broiphy, chairman and chief executive officer of GTE, the nation's largest non-Bell-System telephone operation.

Tenneco Inc., an energy and shipbuilding combine, had record sales and earnings for 1977 and it final quater.

Profit for the year was $426.9 million ($4.38 a share) on revenues of $7.44 billion against $388.8 million($4.15) in 1976 on sales of $6.622 billion. The company had an average of five million more shares oustanding in 1977.

The 1976 results 8 are restated to reflect the acquisition of Monroe Auto Equipment Co. on a pooling-of-interess basis.

Fourth-quarter profit was $118.6 million ($1.21) on sales of $1.926 billion compared with $92 million (96 cents) a year.

Chairman Wilton E.Scott said all of the company's eight major operating divisions were profitable during the year. President James Ketelson told the Los Angeles Society of Security Analyst that gtenneco' oil production wa up 10 percent and its natural gas output grew by 45 percent last year, although overall domestic natural gas prodcution declined.

Sunbeam Corp. a manufacturer of consumer products yesterday reported 1 percent decline in third-quarter earnings but an 18.8 percent rise in nine-month earnings for the period ended Dec. 31.

In the third quarter, the company earned $15.39 milion($1.07 a share) down slightly from the $15.55 million ($1.08) recorded a year earlier. Sales were up 10.2 percent to a record $364.89 milion from $330.66 million in the corresponding 1976 quater.

Nine-month net income hit a record $34.87 million ($2.42) compared with $29.34 million ($2.04). Sales also set a high of $887.11 million, a gain of 10.5 percent over$303.16 million in the year-earlier period.