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Alcoa Profit Showing Recovery to Pre-Lehman Level to Take Years
Jul 12,2010 14:39CST
industry news

BOSTON, July 12 -- Alcoa Inc.'s second-quarter profit is likely to show the largest U.S. aluminum producer's earnings won't recover to pre-financial crisis levels until after 2012, analysts say.

"The story of the second quarter is trying to establish what is a normal baseline for Alcoa's earnings," said Jorge Beristain, an analyst at Deutsche Bank AG in Greenwich, Connecticut, who rates the shares "hold."

The New York-based company will today post earnings excluding one-time items of 11 cents a share, according to the average estimate of 17 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Quarterly earnings won't exceed 44 cents through 2012, estimates also show. In the 18 months through June 2008, before commodity and stock markets tumbled and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filed for bankruptcy, they averaged 62 cents a share.

Alcoa, led by Chief Executive Officer Klaus Kleinfeld, gets about half its revenue in the U.S., where housing, manufacturing and employment figures suggest the economy is more vulnerable to slower growth than previously projected. The company is the worst performer so far this year on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the first time that's happened since 1998, after aluminum prices fell 10 percent.

Shares of Alcoa rose 22 cents to close at $10.94 in New York on July 9 and have declined 32 percent this year. Russia's United Co. Rusal, the world's largest aluminum maker, has fallen 34 percent since it began trading in Hong Kong Jan. 26. Aluminum Corp. of China Ltd., China's biggest producer, has declined 29 percent in Hong Kong in 2010.

'Strong Opportunities'

Alcoa forecasts 6 percent annual growth in global aluminum demand over the next decade, which will provide "strong earnings opportunities" for its alumina, primary metals, rolled products and engineered-products units, said Kevin Lowery, a company spokesman.

"The drivers for the industry are there," Lowery said. "The world is growing and people are looking for more sustainable products which all plays to Alcoa's and aluminum's strengths."

The U.S. accounted for 52 percent of Alcoa's sales in 2009. The U.S. economy will have average growth of 2.8 percent from the current quarter through the second quarter of 2011, according to the median estimate of 52 economists surveyed by Bloomberg from July 1 to July 8, down 0.1 percentage point from last month.

John Stephenson, who helps manage C$1.65 billion ($1.6 billion) at First Asset Investment Management in Toronto, said he has "skinnied up a little bit" on Alcoa shares because the outlook has dimmed.

Price Drop

"The market is still looking for stronger growth and that's what is going to elude them," Stephenson said. "They are doing all the right things, and you will want to own Alcoa when the data points pick up, but right now the data points are in decline."

Aluminum for immediate delivery on the London Metal Exchange averaged $2,092 a metric ton in the second quarter, 3.5 percent lower than in the first three months of this year. Average prices will be little changed in the rest of 2010 at $2,077 in the third quarter and $2,072 in the fourth, according to analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

The cash aluminum price has tumbled 40 percent since trading at a record in July 14, 2008. Alcoa has idled 20 percent of the company's aluminum-smelting capacity amid excess global production and soaring inventories.

Alcoa is due to release its earnings after the close of the market. With concern growing about the economic outlook, investors will be more focused on Alcoa's third-quarter forecast than the second-quarter results, said Charles Bradford, a partner at New York-based consulting firm Affiliated Research Group LLC.

"If the third quarter turns out to be as bad as it may be, I don't think the stock is going to go any place in the near term," Bradford said.



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