Corning Exits VC Business

Divesting the last remnant of its fiber-optic business, Corning has sold its investment portfolio to a Scimitar Capital Partners for an undisclosed sum.

Corning Innovation Partners (CIV) started in the fall of 2000 when the telecom equipment sector was reveling in the largest mergers, acquisitions and IPOs in the IT industry.

But less than a year later, a stalling economy and bandwidth glut undermined the sector. Corning closed plants and laid off employees before eventually selling its remaining fiber-optic operations to Avanex in May.

“We were put in place to gain access to technology, partners and customers in the optical space,” CIV president Greg Hill told “With Corning moving out of photonics . . . that strategic mission no longer made sense. We are a manufacturing company, not an investment company.”

CIV’s portfolio of 16 communications infrastructure firms will now by owned by Scimitar. The Corning, N.Y., based firm will retain a small interest in the firms. Hill declined to say how much Corning poured into the fund, but because of its timing and focus, it almost surely lost money.

Hill will become a Scimitar employee and continue to manage the CIV portfolio on behalf of the Saudi Arabia-based firm.

Scimitar has a “fairly substantial” fund but is “not very public,” Hill said. For example, it has no Web site. A boilerplate description in a press release says it invests in “diverse industries in development markets, and across developing markets such as the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe.”

Hill said the CIV portfolio, which includes 16 firms ranging from research and development stage startups to revenue-producing companies, would be its first technology investments.

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