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) 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.

As part of its plan, Corning will offer price-competitive Gorilla Glass products that will offer higher quality than the standard soda lime glass used today. In addition, Corning will use a China-specific branding campaign to market Gorilla Glass in the leading smartphone market in the world.

In addition to Gorilla Glass, Corning now owns Samsung Corning Precision Materials after buying out Samsung's 43% stake. This will add around $2 billion in annual sales to Corning's display technologies segment while operational synergies will result in $350 million incremental net profit after tax.

This transaction comes with a 10-year supply agreement, where Corning Precision Materials will provide glass substrates to Samsung's products. This agreement strengthens Corning's glass substrate manufacturing and safeguards Corning's interests against cyclical downturn.

Additionally, Corning will leverage its strong market position to benefit from increasing average screen size due to the adoption of large-sized screens on TVs, mobiles, notebooks, and tablets. The increase in average screen size positively impacted Corning's volume, with the company reporting year over year percentage volume improvements in the mid-twenties in fiscal year 2013. It grew by 10% year over year in 2013, and this growth momentum will sustain in 2014 as well.

Volume improvement helped Corning reduce the negative impact of the glass price dip. Furthermore, the company will benefit from operational synergies derived from this transaction. Corning will derive cost synergies from a combination of manufacturing assets and a reduction in its ongoing capital expenses.

Overall, Corning proves to be a long-term investment opportunity especially with the SCP transaction, which will add high incremental value to both its top line and bottom line. This transaction will also add strong shareholder value because as the free cash generated from this deal will be utilized for share repurchase. An incremental $2 billion in share repurchase will be executed as part of this deal.

In addition, Gorilla Glass will provide strong growth momentum to Corning's revenue in fiscal year 2014, with strong growth coming from new markets like automotive and touch notebooks.


At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

Rohit Gupta works in investment banking, buy- and sell-side equity research and ops management.

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