Corning Shares Rise as LCD Demand Grows

Corning said its fourth-quarter profit rose 11 percent, beating Wall Street expectations, on heavy demand for auto pollution filters and glass used in flat-screen televisions and computers.

Earnings climbed to $717 million, or 45 cents a share, in the October-December period from $646 million, or 41 cents a share, in last year's fourth quarter.

Excluding asbestos litigation and other one-time items, Corning earned $643 million, or 40 cents a share. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial expected net profit of 39 cents a share on sales of $1.546 billion. Corning had predicted earnings in a range of 38 cents to 40 cents a share before special items.

Sales rose 16 percent to $1.58 billion from $1.37 billion. Corning had forecast fourth-quarter revenue between $1.53 billion and $1.56 billion.

Shares of Corning were up about 3 percent Monday.

The world's largest maker of liquid crystal display glass said its display technologies sales surged 25 percent to $774 million as price declines fell in line with the company's new pricing strategy. The business, Corning's biggest, was hit two years ago by an inventory buildup among suppliers.

Sales in its telecommunications unit rose 6 percent to $430 million, driven by increased demand for fiber-to-the-premises products. Environmental technologies sales rose 23 percent to $757 million, fueled by its pollution-filter business.

The company expects profits in the first quarter to reach 41 cents to 43 cents a share before special items, up from 28 cents a year earlier. Sales will range from $1.59 billion to $1.62 billion, up more than 20 percent, it said. Analysts had predicted first-quarter profits of 35 cents on sales of $1.515 billion.

"Quarter one has started very, very strong and that we have more demand for our glass than we have the ability to supply," Chief Executive Wendell Weeks said in a conference call with analysts. But "we anticipate to be able to hold our share this year and be able to keep up with our customers."

Corning said LCD glass volume rose 38 percent in 2007 as prices declined just 11 percent. It expects volume to surge about 45 percent in the current quarter compared with a year earlier.

Analyst Paul Gagnon of DisplaySearch, a market research firm based in Austin, Texas, expects 95 million LCD-TVs will be shipped worldwide in 2008, up from an estimated 73 million last year. Of those, shipments in North America could grow to 28.7 million in 2008 from 21.9 million in 2007, he said.

For all of 2007, Corning earned $2.15 billion, or $1.34 a share, up from $1.85 billion, or $1.16, in 2006. Sales reached $5.86 billion last year, up from $5.17 billion.