Corning Inc. said on April 28 its profit increased to $816 million in the first quarter on surging sales of glass for flat-panel televisions and computers. The world's largest maker of liquid-crystal-display glass said it expects robust demand for LCD-TVs, laptops and desktop computers, along with an improved retail outlook for those consumer electronics products, will bump up glass industry volume in 2010.
The glass pioneer, which commands nearly two-thirds of the LCD glass market, now expects glass volume to reach 2.9 billion to 3.1 billion square feet in 2010, up as much as 27% from 2.45 billion square feet in 2009. It previously forecast a range of 2.8 million to 3 million square feet this year.
LCD glass is Corning's biggest business by far. Based in western New York, the 159-year-old company also makes ceramic auto-pollution filters and is the world's largest producer of optical fiber and cable. It employs 24,500 people.
Sales in Corning's display technologies segment more than doubled to $782 million in the January-March period from $357 million in last year's first quarter. "We were essentially sold out," said Chief Executive Wendell Weeks.
DisplaySearch, a market-research firm based in Austin, Texas, estimates that 181 million LCD-TVs will be shipped worldwide in 2010, up 24% from 2009. In North America, shipments are expected to rise 11% to 41.5 million.
Corning said it earned the equivalent of 52 cents per share in the quarter, up sharply from $14 million, or 1 cent per share, a year earlier when recession jitters brought a plunge in glass orders and a $165 million pretax charge to pay for 3,500 layoffs. Analysts expected lower earnings of 42 cents per share.
Sales jumped 57% to $1.55 billion from $989 million a year ago.
Sales in Corning's telecommunications unit fell 5% to $364 million. Environmental technologies sales jumped 75% to $192 million, driven by higher-than-expected demand for auto-pollution filters, especially in China and North America.
Propelled by Gorilla glass, a highly durable and nearly scratch-resistant cover glass now used in 80 consumer devices from cell phones to handheld game devices, specialty materials sales rose 60 percent to $96 million.
Life-sciences sales rose 55% to $118 million, reflecting Corning's acquisition of Axygen BioScience Inc. as it shifts beyond a heavy focus on display glass. It bought the maker of plastic labware and liquid handling products for research labs for about $400 million in September.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.