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Analyst - Corning should sell easily

May 08, 1997

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Corning's Consumer Products division, which made $630 million last year, is a commodity that should sell easily, an industry analyst said Wednesday.

Alex Henderson, an analyst with Prudential Securities Company in New York City, said a company such as the Newell Company in Freeport, Ill., could be a possible buyer for the division that makes such brand names as Corning Ware, Visions, Corelle and Revere Ware.

Corning's Inwood, W.Va., plant, with 350 workers, makes Corning Ware and Visions. The company's 1-million-square-foot packaging and distribution plant in Greencastle employs 550 people.

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Corning officials said Monday the New York-based firm plans to sell the division by the end of the year.

Ross Porter, a Newell spokesman, would not comment on whether his company is a potential buyer for Corning. Newell bought Corning's European consumer product division for the United Kingdom, France and Germany in 1994.

Newell typically buys companies that are in financial trouble, especially those that make products with popular brand names, which they sell to volume buyers like Home Depot and other large chains, Porter said.

Newell, a $3 billion a year company with 22,000 workers, has 85 percent of its operations in the U.S., Porter said.

News of the pending sale has workers in both area plants jittery.

"We're not sure what's going on," said Dennis Myers, president of the nearly 500-member Local 1024 American Flint Glass Workers Union in Greencastle. If the sale goes the way Corning officials plan, "we should be OK," Myers said.

Roger G. Ackerman, Corning's chairman and CEO, said the consumer products division will be sold intact - manufacturing plants, distribution network, workers and their union contracts.

Ackerman said Corning wants to devote its resources and energies to high-tech industries.

Myers said union workers are hurt over the sale. "They're using profits from it to buy other companies," Myers said. "The union has worked closely with management to cut costs. This comes as a slap in the face."

He said Corning has provided workers with an opportunity to make a decent living for more than 30 years. "We can't hold that against them," he said.

Union workers in Greencastle and those who belong to Local 1023 in Inwood have identical contracts that won't expire until 1999.

A Greencastle production worker, who asked not to be named, said there appears to be little open discussion of the sale among employees.

"They're not even talking about it in the break room," the worker said. "But I guess they're worried. They have to be. Some of the older workers are worried about their retirement." he said.

"What is there to say," said another worker. "We got no jobs now."

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