Alcoa's (NYSE: AA) December results weren't really a case of putting lipstick on a proverbial pig. But there may be a more attractive animal -- a horse, perhaps -- trotting around with a bit of rouge on its cheeks.

Sure, you could focus (as the media generally did) on the company's 76% earnings growth, to $632 million or $0.75 a share. But if you back out $323 million, or $0.38 a share, in restructuring and tax gains, you're left with a per-share number of $0.37.

Aluminum prices have fallen, partly in response to the U.S. housing debacle, but also because of declining production from other users of the metal such as trucks and boats. Largely as a result, Alcoa's after-tax operating income fell for most of its segments. To compound the price slippage, the company suffered from higher material input, energy, and currency exchange costs.

Nevertheless, Alcoa appears to have emerged from 2007 operationally and financially stronger. Despite being trumped during the year by British mining giant Rio Tinto (NYSE: RTP) in its bid to acquire Canadian rival Alcan, Alcoa spent much of the year divesting itself of non-core assets and tending to its fixed asset base.

For instance, in addition to agreeing to sell its packaging and consumer businesses, the company completed a couple of large projects in 2007: a new smelter in Iceland and an anode plant in Norway. Financially, management can point to record revenue and cash from operations for the year, along with a stronger debt ratio -- even after the company repurchased 68 million shares.

Looking into the future, the company's capital improvements and other investments in places like Brazil, China, and Russia will almost certainly serve Alcoa well. Given the still-active acquisitions pace in the metals and mining group, it's not impossible that Alcoa -- the world's third-largest aluminum producer -- could become attractive to the likes of Australia's BHP Billiton (NYSE: BHP) or Brazil's Vale (NYSE: RIO).

So in our progressively more resource-hungry world -- aluminum prices' plunge won't last forever, I assure you -- it seems that Fools seeking to benefit from the breakneck pace of resources globalization should keep an eye on Alcoa.

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't have financial positions in any of the companies mentioned. He does welcome your questions or comments. The Fool's disclosure policy believes that cosmetics and livestock don't mix.