13 Surprising Facts About Corning

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Many of the most successful investors are the long-term ones who get to know their holdings very well. If you're invested in a company or are thinking about jumping in, you'd do well to read its annual and quarterly reports closely, and to follow it in the news. But for a deeper understanding of it, poke around its website and peer into its history -- you'll run across lots of interesting things that can enrich what you hope will be a long-term relationship.

Let's look at Corning (NYSE: GLW  ) , for example.

Why Corning?
The company is a giant in specialty glasses and fiber optics. Its fortunes are influenced these days by smartphone and tablet makers such as Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) , which use its glass in their displays. Corning's Gorilla Glass is so strong that it has put a crimp in the business of screen-protecting companies such as ZAGG (NASDAQ: ZAGG  ) . Some worry about Apple's interest in sapphire, though, as it's even stronger than Gorilla Glass (though more expensive) and could threaten Corning.

Corning is also tied to the TV industry, where large-screen models require far more of its glass than relatively tiny smartphone screens. The company does have competition, though, such as from Universal Display (NASDAQ: OLED  ) , with its impressive OLED technology that threatens LCD displays' share. Both companies stand to benefit from Samsung's upcoming S4 phone, though, with its bigger and better screens.

What's so interesting?
1. The stock's history of rewarding shareholders has been a bit bumpy. Over the past five years, it has averaged 10% annual losses, but over the past decade, it has averaged a 10% gain. In the past 30 years, it has averaged 7% growth.

2. Its dividend recently yielded a solid 2.7% -- and better yet, the company has been raising that payment by about 19% per year, on average, over the past five years. That kind of growth has a chance of continuing for a while, as Corning's payout ratio is just 27%, meaning that it's only paying out roughly a quarter of its earnings in dividends.

3. The company is old, tracing its roots back to before the Civil War, to an 1851 investment in a glass company.

4. The range of products that Corning has specialized in or currently specializes in is extremely diverse, including railroad lanterns, light bulbs, television tubes, cookware, ceramic substrates, optical fiber, and active-matrix liquid crystal displays. Indeed, long ago, Corning developed a mass-production system for light bulbs that helped make them affordable.

5. Today Corning focuses on five key realms: glass substrates for TV, computer, and other electronic displays; ceramic substrates and filters for emission control systems; optical fiber, cable, and hardware for telecommunication networks; glass and plastic ware for laboratories; and specialty materials for a range of applications and industries.

6. During World War II, Corning boosted morale among employees (and others) by sponsoring a local radio show: the Corning Glass Works Radio Family Party. Corning also sponsored the opening-night concert at Lincoln Center in Manhattan, conducted by Leonard Bernstein, in September 1962. Some 26 million people watched it on TV.

7. Corning introduced Pyrex heat-resistant glass in 1913, and it was a hit not only in homes, but also in labs. In 1954, Jonas Salk grew the polio virus for his vaccine in Pyrex bottles.

8. Corning's clean-air products have helped reduce air pollutants by more than 3 billion tons since 1975.

9. Japan's National Astronomical Observatory contains a telescope mirror 27 feet wide that was made by Corning. It took several years to polish it.

10. Corning was active in the war effort during World War II, with some 174 research and development projects. It developed extra-strong tableware for mess halls and made glass used in various military applications -- and was seen as important enough that the Nazis reportedly planned to bomb the company.

11. Corning's improved production methodology for radio vacuum tubes lowered the average cost of radios from $133 to about $35 between 1929 and 1932, making radios much more affordable for the masses.

12. There are a lot of fascinating facts just about glass. For example: "Corning makes glass tough enough for windows on the space shuttle entering the atmosphere at 25,000 km per hour, clear enough to carry a pulse of light 1000 km, and pristine enough to make an LCD TV with 3 million pixels. Corning glass is anything but simple."

13. The company is known as just "Corning" today, but for more than 100 years, between 1875 and 1989, it was "Corning Glass Works."

There's a lot worth knowing about Corning, for both investors and history buffs.

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.

Read/Post Comments (6) | Recommend This Article (6)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On April 15, 2013, at 10:08 PM, pro505050 wrote:

    Outstanding report! Just as a wonderful child memory of a TV show "the jetsons" We are living in a world that has endless possibilities and dreams. Corning is not stopping...its is making our future. You will see what will be next for one of the best companies in America!

    Hold your breath....


  • Report this Comment On April 15, 2013, at 10:11 PM, pro505050 wrote:

    Let's just say it all has to do with "the big" APPLE

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 6:23 AM, tjcfirebird wrote:

    Just like clockwork, as soon as ZAGG announces the reporting date for earnings out comes the bashers! The Fools of Motley are he*l bent on doing this in a feeble attempt to put a shine on Corning. They also claim that ZAGG is doomed to fail because of how wonderful Cornings magic gorilla glass is. Fact: the gorilla glass breaks and scratches easily,that is why ZAGG continues to cover the scratch RESISTANT glass. The ZAGG shields turn the scratch resistant into SCRATCH PROOF. ZAGG continues to diversify their product lines and are well established into MAJOR retail stores. Give it up FOOLS we are wise to you!

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 6:25 AM, tjcfirebird wrote:

    I also saw this comment on aYahoo discussion board"My daughter would not let me put a ZAGG on her Iphone. She dropped it two feet and the glass cracked. I have a ZAGG on mine. I've dropped it several times with no screen damage. Case closed."Cornings Gorilla glass is somewhat fragile and definitely needs the added protection that ZAGG's screen protectors offer. Case closed!

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 6:28 AM, tjcfirebird wrote:

    RANDY HALES, COO and President: My sense of Randy is that he is a good fit for the company at this stage. He is passionate, professional and sober minded. He is a ‘hands on guy’ making much of the analyst presentations himself. He is more concerned about mid and long-term direction, sustainable growth and consistency of company performance than a quick homerun. He also feels that the company can achieve very strong organic growth but is not adverse to the right acquisition.

    STOCK BUY-BACK AND WELLS FARGO REFINANCE: The company is in a black out period until earnings release. After that they file an amended 8-K and can begin a buy-back immediately. I get the sense they are itching to start because they believe the stock price is cheap. The $84M Wells Fargo refi is the best endorsement of their financials you can get. The CFO is still smarting from the experience.

    HZO: ZAGG owns about 37% of HZO at this time. Randy’s attitude is if something good happens there it is simply a bonus.

    ZAGG RETAIL STORES IN UTAH: These are legacy stores opened by the ex-CEO. The company said they will be evaluated and appropriate decisions will be made.

    Best Buy: As was already posted here, BBY had surprisingly good numbers but what you may not know is they have opened a number of smaller venue stores focused on mobile electronics and that is helping ZAGG. Also when I asked how BBY receivables were doing, the answer was okay but they did begin wisely insuring BBY

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 6:29 AM, tjcfirebird wrote:


    invisibleSHIELD now represents less than 50% of sales. Zagg revenue has grown from $2M to $250M(est.) in 5years. This means they are doing $100-150M in non-shield product. They have clearly rounded out and filled in their product offering. They are innovating and creating in-house.

    The new iOS game controller could be a huge hit. It is very portable, collapsing to the footprint of the iPhone 5. They obviously need developers to sign on and are wisely hunting with a harpoon rather than a net and going after the major developers such as EA and Epic whom have offices down the street from Zagg in Salt Lake City.

    The Boost NearFA technology is also promising . No pairing like Bluetooth. Simply set an AV device on top and it communicates. The new Origin line of speakers as well as the Animatone children’s line is utilizing this. They also introduced ZAGGSPARQ Portable Power Chargers ZAGGstylus for touch screens in addition to a boatload of new headphones and earbuds.

    CONCLUSION: I left CES feeling even more confident about ZAGG. I was also very much aware while wandering the show how crowded the space is for mobile accessories of all sorts. ZAGG has some critical mass and should be able to capitalize on their brands. There remains a huge disconnect between the stock price and the performance of the company. A regression to the mean puts the stock price back at $15 short term and there are plenty of catalysts – good earnings release, stock buy-back, new institutional investors and of course, a short squeeze. Please feel free to ask questions.

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