|From: Asymmetric||8/2/2014 9:55:06 PM|
|Corning Feels Pain of Weak Tablet Sales|
Glass Screen Maker Cuts Its Tablet Outlook After Overestimating Market
By Anna Prior / WSJ July 29, 2014 3:25 p.m. ET
Corning maker of glass screens, became the latest company to feel the pain of slowing tablet sales, saying it had overestimated the market.
Shares fell 9.6% to $19.93 in midday trading as Corning's earnings were hurt in part by weaker-than-expected sales of its mobile-device display covers, called Gorilla Glass.
Known for making display glass used in high-definition televisions and fiber-optic gear, Corning also picked up on the smartphone boom with Gorilla Glass, a specially-treated display cover for touch-screen devices that resists scratching and breakage. However, Gorilla Glass has faced headwinds, with sales falling 17% last year as Corning worked through an inventory overhang after a bad bet on touch-screen laptops.
Corning on Tuesday made some significant reductions to its cover glass forecast for the year, specifically regarding the media tablet market, which it expects to only grow 8% to 10% this year.
"We just got that really wrong about what was happening in the tablet market, and we have adjusted down our forecast," Chief Financial officer James Flaws said on the company's quarterly conference call. He noted that lower-than-expected tablet sales was the reason for the reduced expectations for Gorilla Glass growth this year.
Enthusiasm for tablets has waned as smartphone screens grow larger and laptop computers grow thinner and lighter. Tablets aren't as essential to many users as smartphones, nor are they as portable. They don't handle many work chores as well as laptop or desktop PCs. And while many people watch videos or read articles on a tablet, it isn't quite a must-have device for many consumers.
As such, Apple last week said that unit sales of the iPad—the best-selling tablet on the market—fell for a second straight quarter, while recent evidence points to slowing sales for imitators that rushed their own tablets to market.
On Tuesday, Corning said sales for its specialty materials, which includes Gorilla Glass, rose 14% sequentially in the second quarter but still fell short of the company's expectations.
"We believe our Gorilla Glass sales reflect what happened in the smartphone and tablet markets in the first half of the year," said Mr. Flaws, adding that in the second-quarter, the company saw "evidence of disappointing sale through, which we believe contributed to our weaker sales into the supply chain."
Corning, which relies on sales of LCD-TV glass for the bulk of its profit, confirmed Tuesday that liquid-crystal display glass price declines in the quarter were more moderate than those in the first quarter.
The company's LCD glass volume, meanwhile, grew more than expected in part because of stronger-than-expected retail TV sales in Europe and South America, likely because of the FIFA World Cup, the company said. Corning said LCD glass volume rose in the low-teens percentage sequentially, compared with expectations of a high-single-digit percentage increase.
For the third quarter, Corning said it expects its LCD glass volume will be up by a mid-single-digit percentage sequentially, while price declines are expected to moderate further, returning to the rates experienced through most of 2013.
Overall, Corning reported a profit of $169 million, or 11 cents a share, down from $638 million, or 43 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding acquisition-related costs and other items, core earnings per share rose to 37 cents from 32 cents.
Sales jumped 25% to $2.48 billion, while core sales rose 28% to $2.58 billion.
Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters predicted earnings of 38 cents a share on revenue of $2.53 billion.
Product costs rose 32%, and selling, general and administrative costs climbed 20%.
Cheap Tablets Crack Corning's Stock
By Dan Gallagher / WSJ July 29, 2014
Corning's high-profile Gorilla Glass business has slipped on a banana peel.
Corning shares slumped sharply Tuesday after the company reported quarterly earnings per share that missed Wall Street's consensus forecast by all of a penny. The selloff reflects in part a high valuation heading into the announcement: 13.7 times forward earnings, or 36% above the stock's five-year average, according to FactSet.
The main culprit for the miss was lower-than-expected sales in Corning's specialty-materials segment, which includes the Gorilla Glass cover material used in smartphones and tablets. On its conference call, the company singled out weakness in tablet demand, noting that the fastest-growing segment of this market is for lower-end devices less likely to use Gorilla Glass. Specialty-materials revenue increased 14% from the first quarter, well below the company's prior forecast of 20% to 25%.
The specialty-materials business accounts for only 11% of Corning's revenue, so some may deem the selloff an overreaction. The company's largest segment remains LCD glass used in large-screen TV sets and other products, and revenue from that business jumped 62% year over year while revenue from specialty materials was merely flat on that basis.
But perceptions of Corning's value have become closely identified with the popular Gorilla Glass brand, such that the business has an outsize effect on the company's stock.
Given the weakness in tablets, Corning will need successful launches of new smartphones—particularly the larger-screen iPhone 6 from Apple —to make its numbers for the third quarter. The company predicted a 10% sequential gain in specialty-materials revenue for the third quarter, which is a bit higher than the 8% gain it delivered in the same period last year that included the launch of the iPhone 5s.
But phones come with a catch: They use less display materials than tablets. So Corning must keep Gorilla Glass—and its stock valuation—balanced on a smaller footprint.
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|From: Asymmetric||11/7/2014 1:48:44 PM|
|Scientist who developed CorningWare dies in NY|
Scientist who developed CorningWare, used in popular white casserole dishes, dies at 99
By David Pitt, Associated Press Nov 7, 2014
In this 1950 photo provided by Corning Inc., Dr. Don Stookey prepares to expose an image to ultraviolet light. Stookey, who forever changed cooking with the invention of CorningWare, died Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, at an assisted living center in Rochester, New York. He was 99.(AP Photo/Corning, Inc.)
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- S. Donald Stookey was a young scientist researching the properties of glass in 1952 when he put a glass plate into an oven to heat it. But the oven malfunctioned.
Instead of heating to about 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit, the oven shot up to more than 1,600 degrees. Stookey expected to find a molten mess. Instead, he found an opaque, milky-white plate.
As he was removing it from the oven, his tongs slipped, and the plate fell to the floor. But instead of shattering, it bounced.
Stookey, who died Tuesday at 99, had just discovered glass ceramics — a breakthrough that soon led to the development of CorningWare, the durable, heat-resistant ceramic glass used to make millions upon millions of baked lasagnas, tuna casseroles and other potluck-dinner dishes.
Although he was never a household name, Stookey's best-known invention found a home in most American kitchens in the form of white dishes decorated with small blue cornflowers.
The space-age material was so strong that the military used it in guided missile nose cones.
Stookey died at an assisted-living center in Rochester, New York, said his son Donald Stookey. He said his father broke a hip in a fall a few months ago and underwent surgery, but his health deteriorated.
"He was one of the great glass scientists in the history of the world," said Steve Feller, a physics professor at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where Stookey earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry and mathematics and remained active in alumni activities. "Virtually everyone has had CorningWare at some point in time, and there were all sorts of spinoff applications from his fantastic work."
CorningWare was celebrated for its versatility. It was strong enough to withstand minor kitchen mishaps, and it gave home cooks the ability to bake and serve food in the same dish. The dishes could go straight from the oven to the dinner table and then into the refrigerator or freezer.
You could also put them in a microwave, and some types could be heated atop a stove. For decades, they were a common sight at family gatherings, church dinners and holiday feasts.
FILE- In this undated photo provided by Corning Inc., shown are pieces of CorningWare dishes. Dr. Do …
Stookey joined Corning Glass Works in New York in 1940, the same year he graduated with a doctorate in physical chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He immersed himself in research, studying the complex chemistry of oxidation and its effects on glass, according to a company biography.
Corning patented its glass ceramics as Pyroceram. By the end of the 1950s, CorningWare had become one of the company's most successful product lines.
"He was fearless — the unknown never daunted him," said David Morse, Corning's chief technology officer. "He was an unassuming and quiet but tough person," whose numerous inventions generated big businesses for the company. "Don was recognized throughout the glass technology community as a world-class scientist."
In a 2011 interview, Stookey said he initially viewed glass research as a way to make money, but he became intrigued by glass' special characteristics.
"I thought this might be a field where I could find something new, invent things not seen before, and I was lucky to have that be the case," he said in a video project funded by the History Channel for the Corning Museum of Glass.
Stookey held the patent on CorningWare, according to his son, who believes his father made money on a percentage of the sales but did not get rich.
In the late 1960s, the elder Stookey felt burned-out and out of ideas, the son said. He offered to leave the company. The family that started Corning told him to take a year off with pay. He traveled the world and returned to spend another 20 years with the company.
CorningWare is still sold today, although it is now marketed by World Kitchen LLC, a Rosemont, Illinois-based company formed after Corning Inc. spun off its consumer-products division in 1998.
Stookey earned 60 U.S. patents. His other innovations included developing photosensitive glass that helped lead to color television picture tubes.
He received the National Medal of Technology from President Ronald Reagan in 1987. In 2010, at age 94, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
"Half of his life was being a professional, well-known scientist, and the other half was fully being a father to three of us kids, a family man and a good husband," Stookey's son said. "He took us hunting and fishing and on vacations around the country and around the world."
Stookey was born in Hay Springs, Nebraska, on May 23, 1915. His family moved from Nebraska to Cedar Rapids when he was 6. He graduated from Coe College in 1936 before earning a master's degree in chemistry from Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, followed by the MIT doctorate.
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|From: Asymmetric||11/19/2014 7:46:02 PM|
|Inside Apple’s Broken Sapphire Factory|
How $1 Billion Bet on iPhone Screens Failed; The ‘Boule Graveyard’
By Daisuke Wakabayashi / WSJ Nov. 19, 2014
(background story on a Corning competitor)
Shortly before 7 a.m. Pacific time on Oct. 6, the chief executive of GT Advanced Technologies Inc. called an Apple Inc. vice president with bad news: GT, which was to supply Apple with superhard sapphire screens for its new iPhones, had filed for bankruptcy 20 minutes earlier.
The filing surprised Apple, because the companies had been negotiating changes in their contract to ease GT’s financial strain, according to a letter Apple later sent to GT’s creditors. Executives of the companies had planned to meet the next day at Apple’s headquarters.
A year earlier, Apple and GT had hailed a $1 billion plan to build an Arizona factory that would produce 30 times as much sapphire as any other plant in the world.
Instead, the alliance turned into a rare—and public—misstep for Apple, whose strict management of its global supply chain has helped it become the world’s biggest company by market value. From the making of the first iPhone in 2007, Apple repeatedly has pushed its suppliers to achieve the improbable, while driving hard bargains on price and time to market.
The Apple-GT marriage was troubled from the start. GT hadn’t mass-produced sapphire before the Apple deal. The New Hampshire company’s first 578-pound cylinder of sapphire, made just days before the companies signed their contract, was flawed and unusable. GT hired hundreds of workers with little oversight; some bored employees were paid overtime to sweep floors repeatedly, while others played hooky.
GT’s meltdown underscores the promise and peril for Apple suppliers. An Apple deal can generate billions in revenue. But it also means adapting to huge fluctuations in demand, at razor-thin profit margins and little room for error. “This is not easy money,” said an executive of a longtime Apple supplier in Asia.
GT Chief Operating Officer Daniel Squiller told the bankruptcy court that Apple had turned his company into a captive supplier, “bearing all of the risk and all of the cost.” GT couldn’t make a profit at Apple’s “dictated pricing,” he said.
Apple put blame for the deal’s failure “squarely at the feet of GTAT’s own management,” according to the letter to GT’s creditors, which Apple allowed The Wall Street Journal to review. “We never wavered from our commitment to make the project successful.”
The Cupertino, Calif., company turned to GT while seeking to solve a big problem with iPhones: scratched or broken screens. Sapphire is one of the hardest materials on earth, now typically produced synthetically, in furnaces that reach more than 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit. It also is expensive—more than five times the cost of glass.
Apple consumes one-fourth of the world’s supply of sapphire to cover the iPhone’s camera lens and fingerprint reader. Early last year, the company began looking for a much larger supply, to cover the iPhone’s screen.
GT made furnaces for producing sapphire. According to Apple’s letter to the creditors, GT told Apple in March of last year that it was developing a furnace that could produce a sapphire cylinder, known as a boule, weighing 578 pounds, more than twice as large as what were then the biggest boules. The larger boule would yield more screens, reducing costs.
GT said in its bankruptcy filings that Apple expressed interest in buying 2,600 of the new furnaces.
Around early summer, Apple switched gears and asked GT to make the sapphire. Apple didn’t want to pay GT’s typical 40% margin for the furnaces, a person close to GT’s operations said.
Apple also was having trouble finding a sapphire manufacturer. An executive at another company Apple approached last year said it couldn’t make a profit producing sapphire at the price Apple wanted.
Apple offered to lend GT $578 million toward building 2,036 furnaces and operating a factory in Mesa, Ariz. Apple would buy and retrofit the factory for an additional $500 million and lease it to GT for $100 a year.
GT was intrigued, because the agreement would provide more consistent revenue than equipment orders. Moreover, GT’s business making equipment for solar cells had fallen on hard times. GT’s 2013 revenue was down 66% from two years earlier.
On Oct. 31 of last year, GT and Apple signed an agreement, a few days after the first 578-pound boule emerged from a GT furnace. The cylinder was cracked so badly that none of the sapphire was usable, people familiar with Apple’s operations said.
GT said the quality would improve, and Apple was encouraged by GT’s track record of making successively bigger furnaces, the people said.
GT quickly set out to hire 700 staffers. Hiring moved so quickly that at one point in late spring, more than 100 recent hires didn’t know who they reported to, a former manager said. Two other former workers said there was no attendance policy, which led to an unusual number of sick days.
GT managers in the spring authorized unlimited overtime to fill furnaces with materials to grow sapphire. But GT hadn’t built enough furnaces yet, so many workers had nothing to do, two former employees said.
“We just kept sweeping the floors over and over,” one of the former employees said. “I just saw money flying out the door.”
Producing sapphire proved to be the biggest problem. It took roughly 30 days and cost about $20,000 to make a single boule. The people familiar with Apple’s operations said more than half the boules were unusable.
GT stored unusable cylinders in rows in an area of the Mesa factory that employees labeled the “boule graveyard,” people close to GT’s operations said.
Mr. Squiller, the GT operations chief, told the bankruptcy court that GT lost three months of production to power outages and delays building the facility.
Apple was responsible for building the facility to GT’s specifications and providing power. Apple told the creditors that GT failed because of “mismanagement,” not power interruptions.
Apple’s comments were “purposely misleading, out of context or inaccurate,” GT said in a brief statement for this article. “There is no point in engaging in a point-by-point debate on each issue.”
Late this April, Apple withheld the final $139 million it was supposed to advance GT, saying it hadn’t met the contract’s output or quality requirements.
GT said in its bankruptcy filing that Apple repeatedly changed specifications for the sapphire. The filing said GT spent $900 million—more than twice the $439 million Apple provided—to get the factory up and running.
On June 6, GT Chief Executive Thomas Gutierrez met with two Apple vice presidents in Cupertino to explain the production problems, according to Apple’s letter to the creditors. He presented a document titled “What Happened,” listing 17 problems, including improperly stocking the furnaces and creating problems by inadvertently changing a furnace design.
Mr. Gutierrez said he was there to “fall on his sword,” the Apple letter said. After the meeting, GT decided to stop producing 578-pound boules and make 363-pound cylinders to get the formula right.
GT spent $900 million—more than twice the $439 million Apple provided—to get the sapphire factory up and running. GT Advanced Technologies
When a boule was suitable, GT used a diamond saw to carve 14-inch thick bricks in the shape of Apple’s two new phones: the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Those bricks would be sliced lengthwise to make screens.
Manufacturing wasn’t the only problem. In August, one of the former workers said, GT discovered that 500 sapphire bricks were missing. A few hours later, workers learned that a manager had sent the bricks to recycling instead of shipping. Had they not been retrieved, the misfire would have cost GT hundreds of thousands of dollars.
By that point, it was apparent that sapphire wouldn’t be used for the screens on the new iPhones, which went on sale Sept. 19. Yet Apple still was eager to get as much sapphire as possible, the people familiar with its operations said. Apple’s letter said it only received 10% of the sapphire that GT originally promised.
The people close to GT’s operations said contractors for Apple applied quality standards inconsistently, sometimes accepting bricks that had been rejected a few days earlier.
In the first week of September, GT told Apple that it was having significant cash-flow problems. It asked Apple to pay the final $139 million loan installment and asked Apple to pay more for sapphire deliveries starting in 2015, one of the people familiar with GT’s operations said.
On Oct. 1, Apple offered to give GT $100 million of the $139 million loan installment and delay the repayment schedule, the people familiar with Apple’s operations said. Apple also offered to raise the price it paid for sapphire this year, to discuss raising it for 2015 and to relax exclusivity agreements so GT could sell furnaces to other customers, they said. The companies agreed to discuss the offer in person Oct. 7 in Cupertino.
Then came the early-morning Oct. 6 call, when GT chief Mr. Gutierrez told Apple that his company had sought bankruptcy protection. The people close to GT’s operations said executives hadn’t told Apple about the bankruptcy plan because they feared Apple would try to thwart them.
GT shares collapsed 93% on the news, wiping out roughly $1.4 billion in market value.
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|From: Asymmetric||11/20/2014 9:13:24 PM|
|As Apple Pursues Sapphire, Corning Says It Made Even Tougher Gorilla Glass |
By Daisuke Wakabayashi / WSJ Nov 20, 2014
Corning whose Gorilla Glass is used iPhone displays, said it has developed a new version of the super-hard glass that aims to address broken or shattered screens from everyday drops.
The new version of Gorilla Glass comes as Apple’s attempts to use sapphire in its iPhone screens have hit an impasse with the bankruptcy of its one-time sapphire partner GT Advanced Technologies. Apple’s desire to prevent broken screens in its phones was the impetus behind a failed $1 billion investment in a mega-factory to produce massive amounts of the super-hard material.
In a press release, Corning said it dropped devices face down from one meter, or 39 inches, high onto a rough surface. It found that the new Gorilla Glass was up to two times tougher than competitive glasses. Corning said the new glass survived up to 80% of the time.
Gorilla Glass was instrumental in the development of the original iPhone. In the months leading up to the launch of the original iPhone, Steve Jobs reached out to Corning and asked it to start producing a super-hard glass for the device.
Originally developed in the 1960s for fighter-jet cockpits, Gorilla Glass allowed Apple to ditch its original plan to cover the iPhone in plastic.
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|From: Asymmetric||12/9/2014 11:32:47 PM|
|Corning Rises On Upbeat LCD Glass Forecast|
By Teresa Rivas / Barrons / Dec 9, 2014
Corning (GLW) shares were trading higher Tuesday on its optimistic outlook for fourth-quarter LCD glass volumes.
Speaking at ahead of an industry conference, Lisa Ferrero, head of the firm’s display technologies business, said that Corning expects global shipments for LCD glass in the low-single digits for the current quarter, up from previous guidance for a small decline, thanks in part to consumers’ strong appetite for TVs.
Ferrero also noted that Corning is anticipating declines in pricing to moderate next year.
Cantor Fitzgerald’s Brian White reiterated a Hold rating on the stock, but noted that Corning’s guidance is in-line with TV demand he found during the Black Friday weekend.
From his note:
For Corning’s Display business, the company expects 4Q:14 LCD glass to increase by a low-single-digit percentage QoQ and better than prior expectations for flat to down QoQ (we are projecting down 1%), while pricing (we are modeling down 3%) to moderate even more than expected in 4Q:14. Relative to our 4Q:14 model, we believe this updated LCD glass outlook can add approximately $65 million to our $1.075 billion Display sales forecast and $0.02 in total EPS upside. Display contributed 42% of Corning’s 3Q:14 sales and the core contributor of profits; however, the company provided no updates around the remainder of its business segments.
S&P Capital IQ’s Angelo Zino also reiterated a Hold rating on the stock: “GLW states that it now expects Q4 LCD glass market demand to increase sequentially in the low-single digits percentage range versus previous expectations for a slight decline. GLW also anticipates Q4 glass price declines to be more moderate than anticipated at the start of the quarter and shipments to be up in line with its market growth expectation. We believe supply conditions remain tight, driven by increasing screen size and shipments within the TV space. Heading into 2015, we remain optimistic about pricing/shipment trends but expect visibility to remain limited.”
The shares were up 2.3% at recent check.
Samsung to use Corning's new ultra-thin Gorilla Glass in next-gen phone
By Jennifer Booton / Reporter - (MarketWatch)
Published: Dec 9, 2014 9:02 a.m. ET
Samsung agreed to start using a new ultra-thin Corning Gorilla Glass in its newest-generation smartphone, the Galaxy Alpha. The glass, at just 0.4 millimeters thick, is the fourth-generation Gorilla Glass offered by Corning, bringing the total size of the Alpha to 7 mm. Corning says the new glass is the most damage-resistant cover glass in its pipeline, capable of dramatically improving screen protection when devices are dropped. The Alpha was initially announced in August with Corning's third-generation Gorilla Glass. Strong and thin screens have become an increasingly important feature for smartphone manufacturers. Consumers were disappointed when Apple bypassed GT Advanced Technologies' ultra-tough Sapphire glass in its new iPhone 6 this past September due to a production disagreement. Despite a broader selloff in the tech sector, shares of Samsung were up 2.5% recently. Those of Corning fell 1.7% premarket.
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|From: Asymmetric||12/17/2014 12:13:13 PM|
|The pioneering tech company you've probably never heard of|
John Lynch / The Independent / Published 15/12/2014
Believe me, it's hard to be far away from the company we are perusing today. The company is called Corning and if you like to watch the telly, turn on the internet, cook a casserole, drive a car or indulge your compulsive interest in the revelations from the Hubble telescope, then Corning has already had a big bearing on your life.
Based in Corning, New York, and founded in 1851, the company's influence on technology began when it was asked to produce the glass envelope for Thomas Edison's light bulb. It has evolved into a global leader in specialised glass, ceramic and optical physics.
One would imagine that a company so ubiquitous would be tripping off every investors' tongue. The fact that this is not the case with Corning may be due tothe fact that its bewildering volume of sales are transacted with only a handful of customers. So, astute readers will conclude, it must have something to do with the mobile phone revolution or with the motor trade. To this I can only respond, well spotted!
Though around for a century and a half, the US firm now operates in five business areas; display technology, Corning optical communications, environment technology, specialty materials and life sciences. It has 70 plants in 15 countries employing 28,000 and has been behind innovations like thinner TVs and monitors. It also developed 'Lotus glass' for high performance portable devices such as smartphones.
The company is the largest LCD glass provider in the world; as a result its display technology business represents 32pc of Corning group sales last year and accounted for net income of $1.2bn. Four customers were responsible for 94pc of sales.
One of Corning's great inventions was optical fibre, an extraordinary product that's pound-for-pound stronger than steel, lighter than cotton, as thin as human hair and as flexible as silk.
Having first produced the optical fibre, it has built a large business in optical-based solutions for wireless networks, data centres and, of course, personal devices.
Another breakthrough for Corning was the development of an economic high performance ceramic that is the standard for catalytic converters in cars.
The company developed a ceramic solution, reducing car emissions by 99pc. Together with filter products for diesel and petrol applications, this forms the basis for Corning's environmental technology business. The business represents 12pc of Corning sales and while competitive, Corning's market position is stable, only three customers account for 87pc of sales.
Its specialised material business provides over 150 formulations for glass, ceramic glass and crystals with a variety of markets including aerospace, astronomy, ophthalmic and communications. It recently launched damage- resistant thin glass to protect screen displays. This business accounts for 15pc of sales, three customers' accounts for half its sales.
Corning life science business is a manufacturer and supplier of scientific lab equipment including vessels and surfaces used for microbiology, chemistry and bio-processing. Revenue from this business is $1bn but a recent purchase is expected to boost revenue and earning.
Sales last year were $8bn and group net income $2bn, up 20pc. Higher sales in optical and life science were offset by declines in display, environmental, technology and specialised materials. In response to global uncertainties, it implemented cost reductions and initiated a share buy-back scheme of $2bn. While investors are pleased with the increases in dividends, they still have some worries. Depending on so few customers (10 large clients provide 50pc of sales revenue) is the stuff of boardroom nightmares.
On the positive side, Corning is valued at $27bn, with a modest price earnings multiple of 12, a healthy financial position and a strong cash flow.
Its shares, trading in the low $20s, are up 35pc on the year and are worth watching.
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|From: Asymmetric||12/26/2014 12:47:48 PM|
|Chemical-Sensing Displays and Other Surprising Uses of Glass|
An inside look at Corning’s labs suggests what’s next for the inventor of Gorilla Glass.
By Kevin Bullis / MIT Technology Review on December 17, 2014
Someday your smartphone might be able to help you in a new way when you’re traveling: by telling you whether the water is safe to drink.
Although a water app isn’t close yet, researchers at Corning and elsewhere recently discovered that they could use Gorilla Glass, the toughened glass made by Corning that’s commonly used on smartphone screens, to make extremely sensitive chemical and biological sensors. It could detect, say, traces of sarin gas in the air or specific pathogens in water.
The sensors are just one project I learned about during a visit to Corning’s R&D labs in upstate New York. In the last few decades, Corning’s advances in glass-making have led to technologies such as fiber optics and flat-panel displays. Now, thanks to Gorilla Glass, it’s associated with the latest smartphones. But despite the remarkable success of that product, it is keen to catch the next high-tech boom.
Corning spends about 8 percent of its sales on R&D—which will amount to about $800 million this year. It’s a hedge against the very real possibility that one of its businesses could go dark—as has happened in the past. Between 2000 and 2002, Corning lost more than half of its revenue when its fiber-optics business collapsed with much of the rest of the telecom market. Its stock plummeted from $113 to just over $1. This year, it got another scare when one of its largest customers, Apple, came close to replacing Gorilla Glass in iPhones with sapphire (see “Why Apple Failed to Make Sapphire Phones”).
Displays, in one way or another, account for about half of Corning’s revenue, with roughly a third of that coming from Gorilla Glass. To expand this market and withstand challenges from other materials, Corning is trying to add capabilities to Gorilla Glass, such as the sensor application. And it’s looking for new markets for Gorilla Glass beyond displays.
The ability to turn your phone into a biological and chemical sensor is one of the earliest-stage projects in the lab. Researchers at Corning and Polytechnique Montreal discovered that they could make very high quality waveguides, which confine and direct light, in Gorilla Glass. The researchers were able to make these waveguides very near to the surface, which is essential for sensors. Doing so in ordinary glass would break it. Making the waveguide involves focusing a beam of intense laser light near the surface of the glass, then tracing it along the glass, which locally changes its optical properties.
To make a sensor, the researchers make a waveguide that splits into two identical pathways for light. Then the paths converge, and the light from both paths meet up. One path serves as the sensing path, and the other as a reference. Even a tiny change to the light in the sensing path—such as its intensity—can be detected by observing how the light from the two paths interacts when they meet, producing distinct patterns.
The researchers demonstrated a simple sensor that detects changes in temperature. Heating up the sensing path changes its shape, which changes the properties of the light passing through it. Because the waveguide is so close to the surface, part of the light actually extends out of the glass, and anything placed on the surface of the glass will interact with part of the light. This means that to make a chemical or biological sensor, you could prepare the surface of the glass so that a specific target will bind to it. For example, you might treat it with antibodies that latch onto E. coli. or other contaminants; detecting their presence would be as simple as putting a drop of water on the phone.
The waveguides are microscopically thin, and therefore invisible, so they wouldn’t obscure a display. And because they’re quite small, sensors for several different biological or chemical targets could be incorporated into a smartphone.
Corning researchers have also discovered that Gorilla Glass has useful acoustic properties. The way it vibrates is different than conventional glass—it damps sound waves. The simplest application is noise insulation—it blocks sound better than ordinary glass.
But the same acoustic properties could also turn displays into speakers. I saw such a prototype in one of Corning’s labs. A wire in the display attaches to a small actuator that vibrates the glass to produce sound waves. Because of the way the waves propagate through the glass, they can be more precisely controlled than with ordinary glass, allowing for higher quality sound reproduction.
In another lab, researchers showed off a seemingly ordinary window. Then, with a flip of a switch on a circuit board, it turned into a display—one showing an old Coke commercial—and I could only barely make out what was behind the image. When the ad was over, I could see through the display again. Corning was particularly secretive about how it managed to make this technology work.
The most uncanny thing I saw was a Slinky-like glass toy. It’s made of thin Gorilla Glass cut in a spiral shape with a new laser manufacturing tool. As with a Slinky, if you hold one part and let go of the rest, it extends toward the floor. Ordinary glass would just shatter, but because it’s tougher, this glass springs back like plastic. The key to having glass this flexible is making it thin.
Corning recently developed Willow Glass, which is about 100 micrometers thick, one-fourth the thickness of the Gorilla Glass normally used for displays. It can be shipped to customers in rolls, making it easier and cheaper to use in manufacturing. Potential customers are still evaluating how to use it; one likely application is as a component inside displays. But already, an even more flexible kind of glass is in development, says Corning’s chief technology officer, David Morse. It can fold around the edge of something as thin as a reporter’s notebook, and do so millions of times without breaking. It could be important in future foldable electronic devices.
Founded in 1851, Corning survived in the past because of its ability to keep reinventing the possibilities of glass. At about the same time that the market for fiber optics collapsed, its business selling glass for cathode-ray-tube TVs also took a steep dive. It was saved by a process it had invented for making the high quality glass needed for the transistors that control pixels in LCD displays—the very display technology that was destroying its cathode-ray business. A few years later, the company got a call from Steve Jobs, who needed tough glass for the first iPhone. Corning just happened to have a technology sitting on the shelf—the toughened glass that came to be called Gorilla Glass. Corning hopes to be ready for the next call.
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|From: Asymmetric||12/26/2014 12:54:41 PM|
|Corning Watch: Corning Inc. rewards shareholders|
LARRY WILSON, Correspondent Elmira Star Gazette 10:56 a.m. EST December 10, 2014
There was a time when Corning Inc. scoffed at dividends.
The company pointed out that most of its stockholders were pension funds, insurance companies or mutual funds. These institutional investors didn’t care about dividends, the Fortune 500 company said.
Instead, they wanted growth — in sales, profits and stock price.
In the early 2000s, as Corning Inc. slipped into one of the most challenging financial periods of its history, dividends dwindled.
Corning paid a quarterly dividend of 18 cents per share on June 1, 2000. As the optical communications business collapsed, so did the dividend of the Twin Tiers’ largest employer. It was first slashed by two-thirds, falling to 6 cents per share.
By July 2007 it had fallen to 5 cents per share, where it stayed until October 2011, when it rose to 7.5 cents.
So for most of the 2000s, the company stock price was depressed by the communications market collapse or the nationwide recession that began in 2008.
Investors, whether institutional or individual, got little in the way of price appreciation, little in the way of dividends and little in the way of growth. What exactly was the point of owning Corning Inc. stock?
That was the question that individual investors began to ask at annual gatherings of stockholders — sometimes in a whisper, sometimes in a shout.
The increase in the dividend to 7.5 cents a share in 2011 turned out to be a tipping point. Realizing that shareholders had pretty much been left out of any gains that Corning Inc. had made, the company began trying to make up for lost time.
It launched stock buyback programs and dividend increases in an effort to reward investors for their loyalty. By 2013, the dividend had risen to 10 cents per share.
From 2011 through early 2014, Corning repurchased $5.5 billion worth of its common stock. Much of that stock was issued in the early 2000s to raise money when the company’s income fell dramatically.
The new stock, however, diluted the value of Corning’s shares for long-term stockholders.
Now, Corning is at it again. It recently announced that the quarterly dividend will rise to 12 cents per share in the first quarter of next year and that it will buy back another $1.5 billion of its common stock by the end of 2016.
Corning Inc. is hoping the stock buybacks will help stabilize or drive up the price of its stock.
There is no sign that the new round of dividend increases and stock buybacks will be the last.
Wendell Weeks, company chairman and president, said improvements in operating performance could lead to bigger dividends and more share repurchases.
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|From: Asymmetric||12/26/2014 12:58:26 PM|
|Corning Watch: Growing Corning Inc. with acquisitions|
LARRY WILSON, Correspondent 10:06 a.m. EST December 4, 2014
Corning Inc., the region’s largest employer, is growing with a series of acquisitions.(Photo: SIMON WHEELER / STAFF PHOTO)
There are a number of ways to expand a corporation like Corning Inc.
You can buy products you’ve never made before along with the technology to manufacture them. That was the basic strategy the Twin Tiers’ largest employer used in the 1990s to build huge businesses in medical blood testing and pharmaceutical development.
After proving to be more trouble than they were worth — in part because of complex government regulations — both businesses were dumped and Corning went back to its roots in glass.
Another way to expand is to grow sales of existing products without acquisitions. Corning Inc. has tried this method with products such as liquid crystal display glass, Gorilla Glass and optical fiber and cable.
Such “organic” growth is usually slow, except when a product gets hot for a short period of time. That has happened with several Corning products, all of which eventually cooled to more realistic levels. Among them: optical fiber, display glass and Gorilla Glass.
A third way to expand a corporation is to acquire businesses already related to successful products.
This seems to be the route that the Fortune 500 company has chosen.
Its largest recent acquisition came in the display glass business earlier this year. Corning bought out the interest of its Korean partner in Samsung Corning Precision Glass. That gave Corning Inc. a better foothold in Asia, a potentially high growth area for computer and television displays.
The $2.3 billion acquisition, which Corning financed by issuing new shares of preferred stock to Samsung, closed in January. It is expected to help drive Corning revenues to record levels this year.
On the heels of the Samsung display glass deal, Corning announced on Dec. 2 it will buy Samsung’s optical fiber business. The terms of the sale were not disclosed, but it is significantly smaller than the display glass deal and will produce significantly less revenue.
Its advantages are that it gives Corning increased access to the optical fiber markets in Korea and China, both of which have significant growth potential.
The two deals with Samsung followed Corning Life Science’s acquisition in 2012 of the majority of the Discovery Labware business of Becton Dickinson and Co.
The deal added new plastic consumable labware brands and other products to Corning’s existing portfolio.
The three deals done since 2012 in life sciences, display glass and optical fiber show that Corning Inc. has chosen augmenting existing product lines as its major strategy for growth. It will be a few years before the success of that effort can be accurately measured.
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