Alcoa earnings beat forecasts, propelled by higher aluminum prices

Wed Oct 8, 2014 7:38pm EDT
 
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By Allison Martell and Nicole Mordant

(Reuters) - Alcoa Inc (AA.N: Quote) reported a stronger-than-expected increase in third-quarter profit on Wednesday as higher aluminum prices and lower costs drove a recovery in its business unit that produces aluminum.

In an interview, Alcoa Chief Executive Klaus Kleinfeld said the "upstream" raw materials business had its best quarter since the 2008 economic slump. "Our performance this time is more great proof that our strategy is working," he said.

The aluminum company traditionally has been one of the first S&P 500 companies to report quarterly results, and some see it as a bellwether for the broader U.S. economy because it supplies major industries such as auto and airplane manufacturing.

Alcoa's stock rose 2 percent in after-hours trading to $16.42. It is up 50 percent this year, outperforming the market and aluminum prices.

In the third quarter, Alcoa's net income rose to $149 million, or 12 cents a share, from $24 million, or 2 cents, even as it took restructuring charges for smelter closures.

Alcoa's growing business making specialized goods for automotive and aerospace customers has helped offset a weak market for less-processed aluminum. The company has also been working to improve costs.

Third-quarter after-tax operating income in Alcoa's primary metals unit, which houses its aluminum mining, refining and smelting operations, jumped to $245 million from $8 million. It also benefited from an increase in average realized prices to $2,538 a tonne from $2,180.

Alcoa has been shutting higher-cost smelting capacity as its joint venture with Saudi Arabian Mining Co 1211.SE expands. Kleinfeld said the Saudi operation is fully ramped up and already profitable.   Continued...

 
An Alcoa aluminum plant in Alcoa, Tennessee is seen in this April 8, 2014 file photograph.  REUTERS/Wade Payne/Files