CORNING | Corning Inc. posted what company officials considered strong results from the first quarter of the year, held back somewhat by a year-over-year fall in sales of Gorilla Glass.

The company’s stock closed at $26.73 Tuesday, down 2.8 percent, though the market in general fell for the day, with the S&P 500 and the Dow both ending the day down more than 1 percent.

Corning Inc. corporate Controller Ed Schlesinger told The Leader Tuesday the company was happy with its Q1 numbers.

“Our businesses performed well in Q1, as we expected,” Schlesinger said. “We had growth in optical communications, environmental (technologies) and life sciences.”

The top-line numbers, with sales of $2.5 billion and earnings per share of $0.31, were closely in line with analyst expectations.

The earnings per share number is calculated with the company’s own “core” earnings numbers, which differ somewhat from the official figures reported to federal regulators.

By those measures, the company actually posted a $0.76-per-share loss.

But company officials said that loss was non-cash, meaning it didn’t involve any real money coming out of corporate coffers, and was the result of currency differences between the multiple markets where Corning does business.

A point of weakness was in the company’s Specialty Materials business, which makes Gorilla Glass, which showed sales of $278 million for the quarter, down about 7 percent from the first quarter of 2017.

Schlesinger said they expect to make that up in the second half of 2018.

“We had a very strong back half of 2017 and we’re seeing sort of the slowdown as the (mobile device) products have been launched,” he said. “We expect to see an improvement as the new launches come in the back half of 2018.”

Another area where sales figures were down for the quarter was actually considered a bright spot for the company.

Net sales in Display Technologies (largely TV and computer screens) were $745 million for the quarter, down 5 percent from the same time last year.

Schlesinger said that number represents a continued “stabilizing” of the screen glass market.

Vice President of Communications Dan Collins said that in this business, as in most others, as volume and competition increases, prices drop over time.

The goal, according to Schlesinger, is to reach a point where sales volume is increasing, mostly because of larger screen sizes, faster than prices fall.

“If we can get our volume to grow greater than mid-single digits, and we can get our price declines down to mid-single digits or someday, hopefully, less, then our revenue will actually grow,” he said. “We’re not quite there yet.”

Still, he said, they’re closer than they’ve been in a long time.

“The pricing environment in display is the best we’ve seen in a decade,” Schlesinger said.

Schlesinger also addressed the effect of the recent tax reform bill which lowered U.S. corporate tax rates to 21 percent.

“We do business all over the world, and our tax rate is a blend of all the jurisdictions where we do business,” he said. “We do expect our blended rate to be about the same as the (new) U.S. rate, between 20 and 22 percent.

“Last year it was about 17 percent. The big difference is, in the past, we did planning activities which impacted our U.S. tax rate. That 21 percent in the U.S. gives us a sustainable rate in the long term.”

Officials also highlighted Tuesday the 23 production expansions currently underway within the company, including at the Big Flats facility, where production of Valor glass for pharmaceuticals is expected to mean the addition of 185 jobs, though it’s unclear over what period of time.

Valor glass is still awaiting approval by federal drug regulators.

And even within the lackluster Specialty Materials business, there were highlights of note, including growing interest in Vibrant Gorilla Glass, a product that allows vivid colorful images to be printed onto the super-strong glass.

The product is being used in some Acer notebook computers and for swappable back covers for Motorola’s Moto Z smartphones.

The company is also seeing continued growth in the number of smartphones that use Gorilla Glass on both the front and back of the device.