Corning falls, GT Advanced soars following Apple deal; sell-side debates

|About: GT Advanced Technologies, Inc. (GTATQ)|By:, SA News Editor

GT Advanced (GTAT +23.4%) has caught four upgrades and soared to new 52-week highs after striking a huge sapphire supply deal Apple. Rubicon (RBCN +25.3%) is also flying higher. Corning (GLW -2.9%), meanwhile, is heading in the opposite direction as investors worry Apple (and perhaps also peers) will begin using sapphire instead of Gorilla Glass to cover smartphone/tablet displays.

The deal still has some skeptics; they point to the fact GT's sapphire materials sales to Apple are expected carry much lower gross margins than its traditional equipment sales, that Apple isn't providing any purchase commitments, and that exclusivity requirements stand to limit GT's sales to other mobile OEMs. But by and large, optimism about the opening of a major new market opportunity long targeted by GT is overshadowing these concerns.

Cantor is defending Corning, arguing sapphire will more likely be used in small form-factor Apple devices (an iWatch?) than in iPhone/iPad displays. Sterne Agee estimates Apple accounts for 10%-15% of Corning's phone-related sales.

GT's management refrained from providing additional details about Apple on the CC (transcript); Apple tends to demand heavy secrecy from suppliers. But they did strike an optimistic tone about sapphire pricing and furnace utilization rates among traditional clients, and predicted customers will likely " start taking delivery of backlog at a faster pace, as [GT's] capacity opens up again." GT also claimed to be making good progress in commercializing its Hyperion tech (set for a 2015 launch) for solar applications;

On the other hand, GT doesn't think the solar equipment market will "show significant opportunity" before 2015.