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Alcoa Earnings Won't Recover for Years, Analysts Say (Update3)
Jul 13,2010 09:09CST
industry news

BOSTON, July 13 -- Alcoa Inc.'s second-quarter profit is likely to show that 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 advises holding the shares.

The 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 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 data indicate 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.

Stocks Slide

Alcoa fell 14 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $10.80 at 12:27 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares had declined 32 percent this year before today. Russia's United Co. Rusal, the world's largest aluminum maker, had dropped 34 percent since its initial offering in Hong Kong in January. Aluminum Corp. of China Ltd., China's biggest producer, had slid 29 percent in Hong Kong this year before today.

Alcoa is the first company in the Dow Jones Industrial Average to report second-quarter earnings. The New York-based producer and other commodities companies may see profit growth of 93 percent in the quarter and 46 percent in the three months through September, according to analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

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."

U.S. Economy

The U.S. accounted for 52 percent of Alcoa's sales in 2009. The country'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.

"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."

Prices 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. The cash aluminum price has slumped 40 percent since reaching a record on July 14, 2008. Alcoa has idled 20 percent of its aluminum-smelting capacity amid excess global production and soaring inventories.

Alcoa is due to release earnings after the close of the market. CSX Corp., the third-biggest U.S. rail hauler, is also scheduled to release results today.

With concern mounting that the economic recovery will falter, 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 consultants 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.


Aluminum Al

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