Though Corning (GLW -7.8%) beat Q4 estimates and is guiding for its display technologies (LCD TV/monitor glass) volumes to be "in-line with normal seasonality" in Q1 (down slightly Q/Q), it also "expects LCD glass price declines to be higher than previous quarters."
Price declines are expected to "return to moderate levels" afterwards, and Corning expects 2014 retail demand (in terms of sq. feet) to be "up a mid-to-high single digit percentage."
Display technologies sales (33% of total) fell 5% Y/Y in Q4 to $665M after growing 7% in Q3; the segment's core earnings were flat. Optical communications (fiber) sales rose 12% to $605M vs. 24% in Q3, but an unfavorable mix and shutdowns led earnings to drop 18%.
Specialty materials (Gorilla Glass) sales fell 29% to $285M vs. a 10% drop in Q3 (customer inventories are blamed). But sales are expected to be flat in Q1. Environmental technologies +9% to $238M vs. -3% in Q3, life sciences (lifted by M&A) +14% to $185M vs. +39%.
Environmental sales are expected to be up by a mid-single digit % in Q1 and optical sales by a mid-teens %. Life sciences sales are expected to be flat.
Q4 gross margin was 40%, down 400 bps Q/Q and 200 bps Y/Y. Gorilla Glass declines and optical mix are blamed. Thanks to the Samsung deal, $1.08B was spent on buybacks, which boosted EPS. SG&A spend -7% Y/Y to $332M, R&D -23% to $169M.