Corning Calls It Right

Back in September, we took a look at LCD glass maker (yeah, yeah, and fiber-optic firm, too) Corning (NYSE: GLW  ) , and at its plans to grab market share in sales of LCD-quality glass to the world's flat-panel TV makers. On the one hand, Corning was planning to boost its production of the high-quality, ultra-thin glass by 70% against a 60% predicted rise in demand for the stuff. Corning expected panel makers such as LG.Philips LCD (NYSE: LPL  ) and Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) , Hitachi (NYSE: HIT  ) and Matsushita Electric (NYSE: MC  ) , to drop the prices on their products to achieve their stated aim of increasing LCD market penetration to 16% over the next year, and Corning wanted to claim a disproportionate share of those sales.

On the other hand, Corning advised that it would not boost its own production capacity sufficiently to enable it to supply all 16% of that market penetration. Why? Well, apparently, the company suspected its customers' reach exceeded their grasp, and Corning wanted to avoid getting caught with excess capacity on its hands -- capacity that it would need to pay for build-out, but that would generate no immediate return on the investment if LCD sales slumped.

Well, guess what? Last week, Corning announced that its LCD shipments had declined in November, enough so that shipments for Q4 could be flat compared with Q3. In other words, LCD sales are not as strong as the LCD makers had predicted, market penetration is going to be lower than predicted, and hence, Corning guessed correctly when it decided not to build out capacity in relying on all those predictions. Or more simply: Corning called this one right.

What's more, sales slump or no, Corning reiterated its most recent sales and earnings guidance for the fourth quarter, saying again that it expects to ring up $950 million to $1 billion in sales, and post core earnings of $0.10 to $0.12 per share (however, note the operative word here: "core," meaning that generally accepted accounting principles earnings will likely be lower than that). Precisely what it had predicted back in September.

So how did Wall Street react? By dropping Corning's stock 8.1%. Which just goes to show: No matter how well you can predict the future, if Mr. Market gets moody, all bets are off.

For more Foolish news and commentary on all things flat-panel, tune in to:

FoolcontributorRich Smith owns no shares in any company mentioned in this article.


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