What happened

Shares of value-added aluminum supplier Constellium N.V. (NYSE:CSTM) plunged as much as 15% in early Thursday trading, and were still down 12% as of 11:15 a.m. EST.

So what

Constellium reported a $0.20 per share loss for its fiscal fourth quarter, much worse than the $0.07 per share profit that analysts had been forecasting. It racked up these losses despite a reviving aluminum market that helped it sell $1.27 billion worth of product -- $40 million more than Wall Street had expected.

For the year, Constellium reported a $0.04 loss on revenue of $5 billion.

A warehouse of aluminum coils.

Image source: Getty Images.

Now what

Management did not give guidance for the year ahead, so here's what I currently think of Constellium. Constellium lost money last year, which obviously isn't a good thing. What's worse, though, is that it also burned cash.

According to its cash flow statement, Constellium generated $93 million in positive operating cash flow last year. Unfortunately, capital expenditures consumed $376 million. As a result, Constellium ended the year with negative free cash flow of $283 million. (And I'm giving Constellation the benefit of the doubt in my calculations. Management's calculation was even worse, estimating free cash flow at "negative 293 million [euros]," or roughly negative $310 million).

Cash reserves are down, debt levels are up, and when all's said and done, Constellation's balance sheet is now burdened with more than $2.1 billion in net debt. Unless they can figure out a way to reverse their cash burn, that number's only going to grow.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.