(Adds CEO comments following conference call, industry context)
By Nicole Mordant
July 8 (Reuters) - Alcoa Inc’s chief executive officer said on Tuesday the aluminum company would push deeper into the market for more profitable finished products like truck wheels and aircraft fuselages as it reported quarterly results that beat analysts’ expectations.
At the same time, CEO Klaus Kleinfeld said Alcoa was focused on cutting costs and improving the performance of its traditional commodity business, which has been hit by weaker aluminum prices.
Alcoa’s shares rose as much as 2 percent in after-hours trading. The company’s stock price is up nearly 40 percent this year.
“The transformation of Alcoa truly is in high gear and the results show this. Our strategy is working,” Kleinfeld said on a conference call.
Alcoa’s strategy to boost value-added fabricated product output and broaden its footprint in other light-weight materials like nickel, titanium and lithium has partially offset the pain of prolonged weak underlying primary aluminum prices on the London Metal Exchange, which have been close to or below breakeven for many smelters over the past year.
Alcoa has idled or permanently closed loss-making smelting capacity as it ramps up its smelter complex in Saudi Arabia, which will be the world’s lowest-cost.
While LME prices have recovered recently, hitting a one-year high of $1,950 per tonne on Tuesday, a massive stockpile of metal continues to cast a long shadow over market sentiment.
“They are certainly very aggressively altering their portfolio, becoming less cyclical, less economically sensitive, more value added, more profitable - transforming,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Bedford Hills, New York-based Solaris Asset Management, which owns Alcoa bonds.
On rising truck orders, Alcoa on Tuesday increased its 2014 growth estimate for the North America commercial transportation market to a range of 10 to 14 percent, up from a previous range of 5 to 9 percent in the first quarter.
The company kept unchanged its growth estimates for other end markets.
Releasing second-quarter results on Tuesday, Alcoa said it earned $138 million, or 12 cents a share, compared with a loss of $119 million, or a loss of 11 cents, a year earlier. Sales were flat at $5.8 billion.
Excluding the impact of special items, earnings were $216 million, or 18 cents a share for the three months ended June. That compared with earnings of $76 million, or 7 cents a share, in the same period a year ago.
Analysts expected earnings of 12.4 cents a share on revenue of $5.66 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Alcoa said that all of its business segments were profitable during the quarter. The Engineered Products and Solutions unit, its downstream business, achieved its highest results with after-tax operating income of $204 million.
Alcoa has long been the first S&P 500 company to report results each quarter, and since aluminum is used by some key industries, including the automotive, aerospace and construction sectors, some see it as a bellwether for the earnings season. (Reporting by Nicole Mordant in Vancouver; additional reporting by Susan Taylor and Cameron French in Toronto and Josephine Mason in New York; Editing by Bernard Orr)