Corning may boost estimate for LCD glass

NEW YORK Wed May 20, 2009 12:46pm EDT

Jim Flaws, Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer of Corning Inc., speaks at the Reuters Global Technology Summit New York May 20, 2009. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Jim Flaws, Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer of Corning Inc., speaks at the Reuters Global Technology Summit New York May 20, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Corning Inc (GLW.N) Chief Financial Officer Jim Flaws said growing demand for flat-screen televisions increases the chances that the specialty glass maker will boost its estimate for the LCD glass market.

He also said the time may be right for Corning to consider acquisitions of small or medium-sized businesses.

Speaking at the Reuters Global Technology Summit in New York on Wednesday, Flaws sounded upbeat on consumer demand, with TV sales continuing to grow and the company bringing some production back on line.

Corning previously estimated the 2009 LCD glass market at 2.1 billion to 2.2 billion square feet. Flaws said, "There's probably a slightly greater chance that it could be higher than it would be lower ... Clearly, with the strength we've seen so far in televisions, if that continues, it would drive it slightly higher."

He said conditions have improved in both the company's display business -- with TV demand increasing nearly every week -- and its telecommunications business.

"The display industry is doing much better, particularly for us," he said.

Corning is the largest maker of glass for liquid crystal display, or LCD, screens. About 60 percent of its business comes from televisions.

"We have price pressure from our customers -- Samsung (005930.KS), Sharp (6753.T), LG (034220.KS)," Flaws said.

"But in the second quarter we're looking for less price declines and basically are achieving that, and you probably won't see pricing declines at all in the third quarter."

Corning has closed some of its glass-making operations and shed about 13 percent of its workforce to shrink costs and cope with reduced demand brought on by the global economic slowdown.

Flaws said the company will be relighting some glass tanks and bringing back some people it laid off as it increases production.

"I have a general sense from talking to CFOs that things are not getting worse ... they seem to be stable," he said.

He added that Corning plans to take advantage of falling valuations to pursue companies that were previously too expensive but which are now available at attractive prices as the recession takes a toll.

"Right now, we have the money to do small acquisitions ... and we are actively looking," Flaws said. Corning is eyeing small and medium-sized companies in the telecommunications and life sciences sectors, he said.

Corning shares were up 4 percent to $14.81 in midday trade on Wednesday, down from a session high of $15.26.

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