2012: The Year Corning Got Its Act Together

In these waning days of 2011, there's a chill in the air and snow in the forecast. What better time of year to curl up by the fire and ponder what went wrong with the stocks you picked back in January, and what went right? And should you keep these stocks in your portfolio or go out and find something new?

That's what we aim to do today, as we flip back the calendar and consider the year that was at Corning (NYSE: GLW  ) .

A few Foolish facts about Corning

Year-to-Date Stock Return

(2.8%)

P/E

10.0

Dividend Yield

2.9%

1-Year Revenue Growth (YTD)

(2.3%)

1-Year Profit Growth (YTD)

(37.6%)

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

*****

Source: Motley Fool CAPS.

What happened at Corning this year?
Battered and bruised from a tough fiscal 2011, Corning shares limped into 2012 near a 52-week low. But much as they did the previous year, Corning shares quickly perked up in January, on renewed hopes for LCD and Gorilla Glass sales. Alas, Corning's comeback was not to be.

While Q1 featured stronger sales than Wall Street expected, earnings dropped precipitously, and Corning complained of severe pricing pressures in its LCD glass division. The company made happier noises in Q2, calling price declines "more moderate than [in] the previous two quarters." Still, a "moderate decline" doesn't equal an ascent. Despite Corning's positive spin, there was no escaping the fact that the company missed both sales and earnings estimates in Q2. Shares that had already been slipping dropped 8% more on the news.

It got worse.

Despite widespread adoption of Corning's Gorilla Glass product as the de facto standard for smartphone manufacturers Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) , Samsung, and Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) , it wasn't long before Corning CEO Wendell Weeks was heard lamenting "weakening global economic conditions" as he issued a gloomy forecast for the fourth quarter. 

And then ... a miracle happened. Presenting at an investor conference in New York last month, Corning's principal accounting officer  announced that rather than dropping, as had been expected, Corning's LCD glass sales were on the rise. Gorilla Glass was booming, with sales up 5% sequentially (analysts suggest that Google's (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) new homegrown smartphones and tablets may have helped), and likely to top $1 billion this year. All of a sudden, Corning was healthy again.

Will it last? No one knows. But with Corning selling for a P/E ratio 22% below that of the average stock  on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) , and a growth rate 43% faster, Corning's starting off 2013 on the right foot, and poised to outperform.
 

With the explosive growth of smartphones worldwide, many investors thought they would ride Corning's dominant cover glass to massive investment returns. That hasn't played out yet, as mobile growth has failed to offset declines in the company's core business. In this brand-new premium research report on Corning, our analyst walks through the business, as well as the key opportunities and risks facing it today. Click here to claim your copy, and receive a full year of updates as key events unfold.


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