Alcoa's Mettle Tested

It was the sort of day for Alcoa (NYSE: AA  ) that can lead to hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing. But in the final analysis, it just may have led to valuation creation for Fools attracted to resource names.

Let's review the bidding here: On Wednesday, Alcoa's shares slid by 8% on the basis of a warning that its second-quarter earnings would be hurt by $0.02 or $0.03 a share, following an explosion at Apache Energy's (NYSE: APA  ) Varanus Island facility in Western Australia. The result was a disruption of the gas supply to Alcoa's three alumina refineries in the area. At this point, Alcoa doesn't know the full effect on its alumina production in the quarter. OK, a couple of pennies; I can live with that.

At about the same time, a JPMorgan analyst dropped the company's rating to neutral from overweight (would that he do the same for me), noting that new CEO Klaus Kleinfeld's decision not to trim off some of its business won't be to investors' liking. Kleinfeld assumed his position just last month, and so the analytical whining could be a tad premature.

But those scribes who stopped there in their explanations of Alcoa's Wednesday shellacking are, in my opinion, exhibiting the attention span of a tsetse fly. In reality, Alcoa is sitting about where it ended last week, including a run-up that preceded the Wednesday drubbing. That run-up likely reflected reports that Brazil's big mining and metals company Vale (NYSE: RIO  ) was embarking on a shopping spree, coupled with a recent Barron's report saying that Alcoa could find itself a takeover target.

By most early reports, Alcoa -- along with Freeport-McMoran (NYSE: FCX  ) and Anglo American PLC -- were potential targets. But when yours truly and some other observers opined that Freeport was probably the most likely target for Rio's affections, some of the enthusiasm was drained from Alcoa's run-up and the stock returned to its prior perch.

That's not to say, however, that Alcoa is inactive or unattractive. After being bested by Rio Tinto (NYSE: RTP  ) in its quest last year for its Canadian competitor, Alcan, Alcoa turned around early this year and teamed up with Aluminum Corporation of China (NYSE: ACH  ) -- aka Chinalco -- for a stake in, you guessed it, Rio Tinto. So the company's extremities are all moving rapidly.

Beyond that, Alcoa produces a product that is in increasing demand. For that and a host of other reasons, the company bears Foolish watching amid the frenetic pace of mining and metals consolidations. Affection from Vale isn't yet out of the question, nor, ultimately, is attention from the acquisitive likes of BHP Billiton (NYSE: BHP  ) .

For related Foolishness:

Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't have financial interests in any of the companies mentioned. He does, however, welcome your questions or comments. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On June 12, 2008, at 4:41 PM, Brettze wrote:

    aluminium prices is at artifical lows just out of fear for aluminium thefts like copper thefts when copper hit $4 a pound. aluminium and copper are usually same in prices histroically. It is just a matter of time before aluminum finally catches up with its couusin copper when governemnts get a handle on the rampant thefts of copper and subsquently aluminium of course.... It is just a delaying tactic . Alcoa a buy

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