Why Corning's Earnings Matter Less Than You Think

Corning (NYSE: GLW  ) reported earnings before the bell on Wednesday that missed profit estimates on a generally accepted accounting principles basis for its third quarter. For the period ended in September, Corning posted earnings per share of $0.28, or $408 million on a GAAP basis, which was a 22% decline from the year-ago period. Analysts were looking for a profit of $0.32 per share. Revenue came in at $2.1 billion, which was in line with analyst expectations for the quarter.

Nevertheless, management lowered its forecast for the company's fourth quarter because of a decline in sales of Corning's optical fiber unit. Corning said the weakness is primarily due to optical fiber sales in North America and China.

But while quarterly results are certainly important, they don't always tell the whole story.

Here's what really matters for long-term investors
In Corning's case, the stock should continue to perform well going forward thanks to the glass and ceramics maker's deal to acquire Samsung's remaining 43% stake in their joint venture that makes LCD glass for televisions and smartphones. For Corning investors, this is important for a number of reasons.

First, by taking control of Samsung Corning Precision Materials, Corning will be able to service more customers and minimize capital spending. This is key considering Corning's display technologies business delivers up to 40% of its profits.

Additionally, Corning agreed to supply LCD display glass to Samsung Display through 2023. For Corning, this 10-year supply contract means steady demand in an otherwise unpredictable global LCD market. Moreover, the deal will leave Samsung with roughly a 7.4% stake in Corning. Corning shareholders, meanwhile, should be happy about the board's decision to authorize $2 billion in share buybacks as part of the deal.

Bigger is better for Corning
The Samsung deal is set to close in the first quarter of 2014. Ultimately, the move affirms Corning's position as a lead supplier of global specialty glass. Over the long haul, this matters far more than third-quarter earnings. It should drive earnings growth for the company going forward as television, smartphone, and tablet screens continue to get bigger.

Fueled by growth in its display technologies business, Corning should continue to reward shareholders in the quarters to come. The stock is up more than 41% year to date at $17.58 a share. Yet, shares still look attractive trading at just 12 times forward earnings.

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