Corning's Profit Triples on Soaring LCD Glass Demand

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Corning (GLW), the storied glass-maker now positioning itself as a leader in LCD glass production, tripled its profits in the fourth quarter, driven by growing demand for glass used in laptop and flat-panel television screens. The company's results illustrate increasing demand for the components used to make high-tech consumer and business products, like portable computers and display units.Corning said Tuesday it earned $740 million, or 47 cents a share, in the fourth quarter of 2009, up from $249 million, or 16 cents, one year earlier. Excluding certain items, Corning reported profit of 44 cents a share, beating Wall Street's consensus expectation of 42 cents a share.

The company said sales jumped 41% to $1.53 billion, beating analysts' forecasts of $1.45 billion.

Bouncing Back From the Downturn

The strong fourth quarter capped up a tumultuous year for Corning. "We began 2009 with a high degree of uncertainty and were not surprised with the slow start we saw in quarter one," said Chairman and CEO Wendell P. Weeks in a statement. "Momentum picked up in the second quarter and our performance improved each quarter thereafter."

"The second half of the year was particularly strong for LCD glass demand as consumers continued purchasing LCD televisions, laptop computers, and other electronic devices that use our glass," Weeks added.

Corning reported that sales in its display technologies business -- which makes the liquid crystal displays used in flat screen televisions -- jumped 86% to $717 million. "The sequential increase was driven by continued robust retail demand for LCD products and panel makers' outlook for 2010," the company said.

The company offered a cautiously optimistic outlook for the coming year. "Our economic assumptions for 2010 include a mild recovery in the developed world economies and continued growth in China," said James B. Flaws, Corning's CFO. "Clearly we don't have a crystal ball that can guarantee this outlook will come true, so we will be cautious on spending and prepared to be nimble if we see changes."

"We expect the overall display glass market to be up in the first quarter versus our original expectation of lower seasonal demand," Flaws added.
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