Alcan (NYSE:AL) delivered gleaming results for the third quarter, as the burgeoning global economy continued to bolster demand for aluminum. The firm seems well-positioned to keep up its performance in the near term, even as it lays the groundwork for a major transformation.

The Canadian-based company, which is the world's second-largest aluminum producer, posted per-share income from operations of $0.47 in the quarter, a nice 47% gain from the same period in 2003. Revenue surged to $6.2 billion, up about 77% on a year-over-year basis. Perhaps most impressive, though, was free cash flow, which came in at $376 million, a 40% jump over the prior year's quarter.

Alcan's showing looks all the more spectacular when compared with the recent disappointing performance of its chief competitor, Alcoa (NYSE:AA), which holds the No. 1 spot in aluminum production. Unlike its bigger rival, Alcan seems to be taking full advantage of the tight aluminum market. And future trends look bright -- Alcan is now projecting a wider deficit in aluminum production than it did in the second quarter.

As aluminum demand takes off, Alcan is also working on a transaction that should be good for shareholders over the long haul. In September, the firm announced that it will spin off its rolled aluminum business into a new company to be known as Novelis. The move is designed to satisfy European regulators' conditions for Alcan's purchase of France's Pechiney Group. Alcan will retain the more profitable smelting operations and hand off $2.8 billion in debt to the Novelis, freeing up the parent company to make further investments and acquisitions. Even with the debt, though, Novelis stands to perform well as global economic growth continues.

Alcan has proven that it can ride on top of the wave of global trends. With a spinoff in the works, investors now have the opportunity to buy into two companies whose futures look bright.

Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer living in Chicago. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned here.