Corning Corners LCD Market

Like other companies that lived and died by the telecom industry, Corning has had a rough three years. But the company's prospects might be improving.

The fiber-optics build-out isn't over, and demand for LCD glass is exploding, thanks to increasingly popular flat-panel televisions. In other words, Corning is a comeback company in the right place, at the right time.

Corning has had a rough go of it these past three years. The company is the world's largest manufacturer of fiber-optic cable, and at one time it relied on the telecom industry for more than half of its revenues. Enough said, right? Corning took its lumps right along with Lucent (NYSE: LU), Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO), and Nortel Networks (NYSE: NT). I live in Denver -- home to many of the country's best-known telecom companies -- and did a stint in IT, so the telecom depression hit home, creating a glut of out-of-work tech employees.

Corning, based in Corning, N.Y., laid off well over 10,000 employees, or more than 25% of its workforce, and has spent the last three years selling or shutting down unprofitable businesses. These are necessary cutbacks during a recession, but not the source of Corning's comeback.

Neither are fiber-optic sales, which are expected to stabilize this year, being flat to down 5%. However, fiber-optic sales are a source of significant potential growth for the company. Fiber to the premises (FTTP) technology has been talked about for many years, but has been slow to catch on. During their glory days in the late 1990s, the phone companies waged war to see who could lay the most fiber-optic cable, stringing it well beyond city borders. While the build-out has abated, it hasn't stopped completely. Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ), for example, plans to run fiber to a million homes and businesses this year, and Corning is a lead supplier.

600450 Corning Corners LCD Market

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