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Corning Inc. recently announced that continued strength in worldwide LCD television sales has led to an increase in the company’s fourth quarter glass substrate volume expectations, as well as an improved outlook on 2010 glass market growth. These improved estimates were provided by James B. Flaws, vice chairman and chief financial officer, in remarks delivered at the Barclays Capital Global Technology Conference in San Francisco.
Flaws told investors that “lights are green in display,” noting that worldwide LCD TV year-over-year October sales increased 45%, the second-highest monthly growth rate of the year. He pointed out that the October sales strength occurred in all major TV markets, with LCD TV unit sales up 28% in the U.S., 20% in Europe, 115% in China, and 73% in Japan. “In the U.S., LCD TV sales remained strong throughout all of November, including the week of Black Friday,” said Flaws. The retail data is the result of reports from a variety of independent consumer market research organizations (NPD, GFK, BCN and CMM), as well as the company’s internal analysis.
“As a result, panel makers continue to run at high utilization rates in the fourth quarter and glass supply is very tight,” said Flaws. “We expect glass demand to remain this way through the remainder of the quarter. Therefore, we are raising our fourth quarter volume estimates to flat to up slightly.” Previously, the company had said that fourth quarter volume could be flat to down slightly. Estimates include both Corning’s wholly owned business and Samsung Corning Precision Glass Co., Ltd., Corning’s equity affiliate in Korea. “Fourth quarter demand is strong enough that if we could produce more glass, we would be able to sell it,” said Flaws.
Flaws added that Corning now anticipates the worldwide glass market will be closer to 2.4 billion square feet this year, an improvement from earlier estimates of 2.3 billion square feet. He pointed out that Corning now believes global LCD TV sales will exceed 132 million, up from the previous expectation of 129 million sets.
Regarding other Corning businesses, Flaws said that the Telecommunications segment remains on track with the company’s previous guidance of a 10 to 15% sequential decline as the industry continues experiencing global weakness, except in China. The Environmental Technologies segment is seeing better-than-expected sales strength in both automotive and diesel products. Automotive demand appears to be fueled by an industry-wide need to replenish inventory in the supply chain, and diesel demand is the result of sales in advance of more stringent 2010 heavy-duty engine emissions regulations. This has led Corning to improve its expectation of fourth quarter segment sales to be flat sequentially vs. the previous expectation of a 10 to 15% decline.
“The strength of the fourth quarter suggests that the 2010 LCD glass market could be larger than what we previously thought,” said Flaws. “If the supply chain exits this year at healthy levels and retail sales continue strong, the normal seasonal decline the glass industry usually experiences in the first quarter may be less than anticipated. Our early modeling suggests that 2010 worldwide LCD glass demand could be between 2.7 billion and 2.8 billion square feet.
“There is an opportunity for further LCD glass volume growth over the next several years. LCD television growth will be driven by penetration into the embedded TV base, an increase in the number of sets per home and a shorter replacement cycle.”
Flaws said that the company expects spending across the Telecommunications industry to be lower next year, as the industry is typically one of the last to recover from economic downturns. In its Environmental Technologies segment, automotive emissions control product sales are expected to grow from their current depressed levels. He added that Corning remains confident that the diesel business could reach $500 million in sales within the next few years, as emissions regulations take hold in several countries.
In other businesses, Flaws explained that the Specialty Materials segment has a significant growth opportunity with its Gorilla™ glass, a scratch-resistant cover glass for portable display devices. “The response to Gorilla has been tremendous,” said Flaws. “The glass is already used in more than 50 devices today and is included in the design of 50 additional products planned to be launched in the future. We believe Gorilla glass has the potential to be a $300 million business in the next several years …with the potential to be much larger.”
The company is also making investments in developing glass for thin-film solar panels; a second generation of its Epic® System for high-throughput, label-free drug discovery; silicon-on-glass substrate technology for OLED mobile displays; commercial production of green lasers for microprojectors; and Advanced-Flow™ glass reactors for chemical production.
For additional details, visit www.corning.com.