Fiscal Troubles at Apple’s Sapphire Display Partner

Even a lucrative contract with Apple looks unlikely to save a New Hampshire-based maker of lab-grown sapphire used in mobile-device screens. GT Advanced Technologies said Monday that it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy court protection not even a year after it had signed a $578 million deal to supply Apple with sapphire goods.

GT makes polysilicon and ingots, which are then processed into photovoltaic modules.

The company had seen its stock price rise after it signed a deal with Apple in November 2013 to make sapphire products. Observers and investors had expected those products to be displays for the next iPhone smartphone, but as it turned out, Apple stayed with a glass display when it debuted the new iPhone 6 in September.

GT's stock has fallen since then, even though the Apple Watch smart watch, expected next year, will include a sapphire display in some of its models. The stock dwindled from about $17 just before Apple unveiled its new iPhone 6 in early September to about $11 on Friday. Shares fell to less than a dollar each during Monday trading.

Still in Business

Nobody outside Apple was certain, but there had been speculation that the iPhone 6 display would be sapphire. That would have posed a threat to Corning, which has made its Gorilla Glass for the iPhone since it was first made. Sapphire is considered by some to be a superior material for the displays, since it is more scratch-resistant. Corning has countered that sapphire is heavier, more brittle and more expensive than its Gorilla Glass.

"Today's filing does not mean we are going out of business," said Tom Gutierrez, GT's chief executive officer. "Rather, it provides us with the opportunity to continue to execute our business plan on a stronger footing...and improve our balance sheet."

In the deal made last year, Apple agreed...

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