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CORNING may never open plant

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Corning Inc. has delayed construction of a $400 million fiber optics plant, and some analysts say it may never be built.

Scott Kula, Corning's plant manager, said construction will be delayed 12 to 18 months, but it should be built and in production by early 2005.

The plant in Oklahoma City would manufacture high-tech fiber optics that use bundles of glass or plastic fibers to transmit vast amounts of data. Corning is a leader in a field that also includes Alcatel and Lucent Technologies.

Corning's fiber optics sales probably will be down about 40 percent from last year, said Analyst and author Peter Cohan. The downturn in the high tech sector and excess fiber optic network capacity have thrown plans to construct the plant into question.

``It may not happen,'' Cohan said. But he stressed that the company is not in danger of going out of business. The company has $1.1 billion in cash and it made $132 million in the first quarter.

Corning's stock dropped Thursday to a new 52-week low of $16. Its 52-week high was $113.33.

Merrill Lynch analyst Steven Fox downgraded his recommendation on Corning stock from ``accumulate'' to ``neutral.''

``Our recent field checks lead us to believe that results in Corning's high-margin fiber business (20 percent to 25 percent of sales) over the next few quarters to be below even our worst-case scenario,'' he wrote.

Corning also makes flat-panel displays for television sets and computers.

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