Investors got a first look today inside Corning Incorporated's (NYSE:GLW) new Generation 10 LCD glass substrate facility in Sakai City, Japan, and heard good news about worldwide LCD TV retail sales.
During the facility tour, Jim Clappin, president, Corning Display Technologies, told investors that retail data for the first part of this year shows robust demand for LCD TVs. "In China, January LCD TV sales were up 53%. This is in line with our expectations, given that a portion of Chinese New Year occurred in January last year," Clappin said. "In Japan, LCD TV sales were also very strong, up 79% in January and 65% in February." Clappin added that European retail sales grew as well, up 12% in January.
In the U.S., LCD TV sales for the two months combined were comparable to sales during the same time period last year. "This is in line with our expectations, as sales last January may have been higher due to inventory liquidation at Circuit City and the original digital conversion deadline in February." The retail data is the result of reports from a variety of independent consumer market research organizations (NPD, GFK, BCN, and CMM) and the company's internal analysis.
Clappin also noted that panel prices for the first two months continued to be firm. "This is important as it is an indication that panel demand continues to be strong, which suggests there is strength further down the supply chain. Panel maker utilization rates also remain high. As a result, we continue to ship everything that we can make."
The company had no changes to its guidance for its first-quarter results or 2010 LCD glass market expectations.
Corning's Gen 10 LCD glass facility in Sakai City broke ground in 2007 and began shipments last year. Corning is the first manufacturer of TFT-grade Gen 10 substrates. At 2880 mm x 3130 mm, Gen 10 is the largest LCD glass substrate available. The Gen 10 substrates manufactured at this facility use Corning's revolutionary EAGLE XG glass composition, the most environmentally friendly LCD glass on the market.