Although the prospects for growth plan disruptions at Alcoa
The aluminum producer reported first-quarter earnings that exceed analyst expectations due primarily to continued high demand in China, as well as developing claims for its products in both the aerospace and defense industries. Revenues came in 11% higher at $7.9 billion, and earnings were up 9%, to $662 million, or $0.75 per share.
Increased demand for aluminum pushed prices higher and Alcoa was able to sell its metals at a 14% premium over the year-ago period. Some see the difference in the higher selling prices and Alcoa's revenue increases as a sign that the company's good fortunes will tarnish. Some assets may be underperforming while the aluminum producer is facing increased expenses. It's spending money on a new smelter, facing more stringent clean air regulations, and confronting slack demand in North America caused by falling housing and auto markets.
All true, and if some of the more negative outcomes actually come to pass Alcoa might no longer enjoy the rich premium it trades at in comparison to competitors such as Alcan
Yet, there doesn't appear to be a letup in demand in the emerging economies of both China and India. Global aluminum production is expected to grow 10% in 2007 while demand should rise nearly 8%, according to Alcoa CEO Alain Belda. Chinese production and demand, however, should grow around 23% this year.
The strike at bauxite mines in Guinea increased both prices and charges to Alcoa -- it expects to record $8 million in costs related to the strike next quarter -- but its new Icelandic smelter should increase its capacity, which would offset the anemic growth in total product shipments. They rose just 1% to 1.37 million tons, partially because of the strike, even though metal production rose to 899,000 tons. It's also anticipated the smelter will start contributing to earnings this year.
Demand in domestic housing and auto markets may be a temporary setback, but aerospace and defense are compensating for it and new emissions regulations may push demand for lighter weight aluminum components even higher in autos. Boeing
With demand high, customers willing to pay higher prices, and the potential to deliver more product to the marketplace, Alcoa seems poised to enjoy the benefits of the changes in the marketplace. Having lagged the market for several years -- aluminum prices are up 44% over the past two years versus an 18% increase in Alcoa's stock -- investors have enjoyed their shares being the Dow's biggest gainer in the first quarter. Despite some possible negative macro issues, company-specific factors should continue to burnish this stock.
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