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Why Corning Glass Remains an 800-Pound Gorilla

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- There are companies that haven't kept pace with the times. The technology becomes obsolete and the company falls by the wayside.

The smart ones either go with the flow or buy companies that can bring them into the modern age. Corning (GLW - Get Report) is one of them.

The stock is up 9% for the year to date, as of the Thursday close. Its numbers are even better for the past 52 weeks: shares up over 50%.

What brought Corning back from "Are they still around?" to a stock worth noticing? A Gorilla.

Specifically, Gorilla Glass.

Corning started its fiscal 2013 with one objective: restore earnings growth that was hit by a weak LCD glass market. That included cutting costs, which helpd the company post GAAP earnings growth of 20% year over year in fiscal 2013.

But its Gorilla Glass was a factor, too. It is the most famous cover glass used today, featured in 2,400 products, 2.4 billion device, and 33 major brands. This cover glass unlocks a new set of opportunities for the company because Corning expanded Gorilla to touch-enabled notebooks, markerboards and the automotive industry.

The BMW i8 was the first car to use Gorilla Glass in its rear window, and the lightweight nature of Gorilla Glass enables car manufacturers to reduce the overall weight of the car. Corning is working with several other major auto makers to incorporate Gorilla into different parts of the vehicle, including sunroofs and windshields. Global auto glass is a 5.5 billion square foot market, and Corning can add strong incremental value to Gorilla Glass sales from this market.

But that's not all.

Besides autos, there's the smartphone business. Corning said during a recent investor meeting it's expanding its presence in the sub-$200 smartphone market. Gorilla Glass is already big in the high-end market but it's now targeting the low end. Since emerging markets are the current drivers of the smartphone market, it important for Corning to target these budget-level smartphones.

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