Before I delve into our strategy, I’d?like to share Corning’s financial?results from last year. Our core sales?were $11.7 billion, up 2% from 2018,?driven by growth in Environmental?Technologies, Specialty Materials,?and Life Sciences. Core earnings per?share were $1.76. During 2019, we?set new four-year targets for growth?and capital allocation, we increased?our dividend, and we demonstrated?our ability to generate significant?operating cash flow even with?market performance below our?expectations. Strong capital?stewardship is a cornerstone of our?management approach.
Once again, we outperformed our?underlying markets in each business?segment. We grew Environmental?Technologies sales 16% against a?backdrop of declining car sales. We?grew Specialty Materials sales 8%?while smartphone units were down.?In Life Sciences, we exceeded industry?growth rates on the strength of new?bioprocess and advanced cell culture?products. In Display Technologies, our?glass volume grew at a mid-single?digit rate even though TV unit?sales were down. And, in Optical?Communications, we outperformed?the passive optical market,?which declined.
We entered 2019 with strong?momentum following two years?of solid growth, and that growth?continued in the first half of the year.?In the second half, we felt the impact?of challenging global?market conditions, particularly?in Display Technologies and?Optical Communications.
In Display Technologies, we?experienced a temporary supply chain?adjustment. Set makers purchased?panels more conservatively, which?drove panel maker utilization?reductions in the second half. As panel?makers purchased less glass, our?volume declined accordingly.
In Optical Communications, after?sales increased 13% year over year in?the first half, they declined 16% in the?back half. Changes in spending by?two large customers accounted?for a significant portion of the?year-over-year decline.
We acted quickly to mitigate lower-than-expected second-half demand in?both Display Technologies and?Optical Communications. While?everyone in the company relentlessly?executed by making careful program?choices, controlling spending, and?increasing operational efficiencies,?our profitability declined along with?factory utilization due to?decreased volume.
We expect to return to sales and profit growth in the second half barring external disruptions that could severely affect our ability to conduct normal business operations. In Display, we see indicators that the supply chain correction has ended, and we expect to resume volume growth in 2020, with the majority reflected in the second half. We also plan to start production at our next Gen 10.5 plants, which will support faster-than-market growth as they ramp. In Optical, we expect year-over-year growth in the second half, driven by projects for 5G, fiber-to-the-home, and hyperscale data center deployments. As volumes in both businesses increase, so will our factory utilization, improving the profitability of the corporation.