4 Diversified Advanced Material Specialists To Consider

Includes: AA, GLW, MMM, TVIA
by: Kevin Quon

In a world filled with complex services and technologically-advanced consumer products, it's easy to forget that almost every object we use derives its origin at some lower material level. Computers, for instance, are mere machines made of plastic and wiring which are derived from petroleum and basic metals respectively. As a consequence, those companies that can operate on the base level of such materials often find themselves covering a multitude of industries. Undoubtedly, plastics aren't just found in computers, for instance, but also in your toothbrush, your car, your furniture, and etc. Such a wide range of industrial uses serves as an internally-diversifying characteristic that can strengthen the stability of companies who specialize in these materials by offering a vast open agenda of market opportunities.

To further optimize this diverse market advantage, companies must evolve beyond being a mere commodity player and into being an advanced material specialist. By adding value to end products, such companies capture higher margins and gain the flexibility of operating in markets as economic conditions merit. The following companies offer a few names to consider that can fit the aforementioned description of an advanced material specialist.

Name Market Cap. Fwd P/E Industry
Alcoa (NYSE:AA) $9.08 B 8.89 Aluminum
Ceradyne (CRDN) $608 M 12.05 Ceramics
Corning (NYSE:GLW) 18.92 B 8.26 Glass
Solazyme (SZYM) n/a n/a Oils
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Alcoa remains caught in between as a commodity producer and as a product specialist. The conglomerate is engaged in the production and management of primary aluminum, fabricated aluminum and alumina. In regards to industrial uses, the company has a broad presence in the markets of aerospace, energy, alumina, aluminum ingot, automotive, building & construction, commercial transportation, consumer electronics, oil & gas, and packaging. Highly tied to industrial growth, Alcoa has had a difficult time on the market in light of recessionary fears that could lead to reduced global growth. Yet the company's product lines remain well-balanced and the company itself stands as the leader in its industry with little domestic competition. In a recent interview found here with Jim Cramer, Alcoa CEO Klaus Kleinfield articulates further upon its engineered products lines that offers the company a bit more flexibility.


Ceradyne is a vertically integrated manufacturer of advanced ceramic systems and components. Though commonly associated with its defense-related products such as its body armor systems used throughout the military, Ceradyne has a wide range of markets its able to tap into. The company's expertise is being applied for applications in automobiles, electronics, medical products, nuclear power, the oil and gas industry, and even solar energy. The unique properties of advanced technical ceramics include hardness, low friction, lightness of weight, the ability to withstand high temperatures, and the ability to resist corrosion. Such characteristics allows for Ceradyne to continually explore sustainable, high-margin markets that continue to propel the company forward.


As a leading specialty glass manufacturer and innovator, Corning's vast knowledge base in glass production has allowed it to retain a technological edge over its competitors. Founded in 1851, the company's ability to adapt has in part come from the wide range of applications in which glass can be used. The company addresses markets in display technologies, telecommunications, environmental technologies, life sciences, and specialty materials. With products that enable innovation from clients, the company's goods today can be found on next-generation smartsphones, on OLED TVs, and even in solar panel construction. In 2011, the company created a YouTube video that went viral detailing the possibilities of a future that operated around glass products made by corning. Appropriately titled, "A Day Made Of Glass... Made Possible By Corning," the video found here helps illustrate the many future possibilities that are slowly becoming a reality in the present.


Solazyme is a leading renewable oil innovator and manufacturer. While differing from the aforementioned names in the sense that it's commercial scale operations are currently under construction, the company's unique algal conversion technology holds proven capabilities to open up new industries found within the field of oils. Already capable of profitably converting low-cost sugars into direct drop-in replacements for petroleum, plant oils, and animal fats, Solazyme's hidden strength lies in its ability to create new types of oils that are customized for industry that are not capable of being achieved through conventional means.

It's for this very reason that companies like Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW) and Unilever (NYSE:UL) have expanded their research relationships with Solazyme. With a current addressable market of over $3.1 trillion today, even if the company were to abandon its value-added advantage and only produce copies of naturally-occurring oil profiles, there would be much opportunity in store. Nevertheless, as the company builds its first facilities expected to be operational by the end of 2013, it's current business segments illustrate the vast range of market opportunity. The company currently sells cosmetics, has a joint venture for food, has a joint venture for chemicals, and is selling fuel to the U.S. Navy.

Disclosure: I am long AA, GLW, SZYM.