Corning , which makes liquid crystal display glass used in flat panel displays, fiber-optic cable products and lab equipment, said strong demand for flat-panel televisions lifted the company to a fourth-quarter profit from a year-ago loss.
The company also forecast more strength in its display business in 2007, though its estimates for first quarter revenue and earnings were lighter than average Wall Street expectations.
Net income was $646 million, or 41 cents a share, for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31 versus a loss of $33 million, or 2 cents a share, in the prior-year period, which included a hefty tax-related costs. Latest-quarter results include one-time gains of $158 million, or 10 cents a share.
Excluding the items, the latest quarter's earnings totaled $488 million, or 31 cents a share, beating analysts' expecations of 28 cents a share, according to a Thomson Financial poll.
Revenue rose 14% to $1.37 billion versus $1.2 billion in the previous year, helped by strong performance at the company's affiliates, Dow Corning and Samsung Corning Precision Glass, which make LCD glass substrates. Quarterly revenue exceeded a Thomson forecast of $1.3 billion.
The company, named after Corning, New York, where it began more than 150 years ago, has benefited from growing demand for liquid crystal displays in flat-panel televisions and computer
monitors. Prices for large, slim TVs continue to fall, driving up consumer demand and sales.
"The strong finish to the year was clearly led by our display business," Kate Asbeck, vice president of finance, told Reuters. "LCD television is clearly becoming the largest driver
of the increase in growth."
Corning said display technology volumes rose and profit margins held steady despite the price declines. Its total LCD glass volume increased 46% from a year ago, with profits from its display technologies segment up 25%.
Its telecommunications segment sales fell 11% to $404 million, from $456 million in the third quarter. The company said the decline was less than it had expected due to strong demand from European and North American phone companies.
Looking ahead, Corning sees first quarter earnings of 24 cents to 27 cents per share, before one-time items, with revenue at $1.26 billion to $1.31 billion. Analysts were expecting a
profit of 28 cents on revenue of $1.34 billion, according to Reuters Estimates.
Corning saw significant growth in its heavy-duty diesel products -- including filters for large truck engines -- due to new U.S. emissions regulations.
The company added that its cash flow is so strong that it may this year consider buying back its own stock or offering a dividend.
Before today's news, shares of Corning had fallen about 20% over the past 12 months. That compared to a drop of only 4% by Japan's Asahi Glass Co. Ltd., its nearest competitor.