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Alcoa Posts Surprise 1Q Profit, Shares Rise

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Alcoa Inc. (AA) reported a surprise first-quarter profit on gains in its midstream and downstream businesses, though its earnings fell 69% from a year earlier as aluminum prices continued to fall. Shares rose 4.6% to $9.75 in recent after-hours trading. Alcoa's latest results come after the company swung to a loss in the fourth quarter and after the company's bottom-line results had missed analyst expectations in the prior three quarters. "Performance rebounded strongly this quarter due to our proactive cash sustainability actions, our relentless focus on profitable growth, and stabilizing markets," said Chairman and Chief Executive Klaus Kleinfeld. "We are successfully executing on our aggressive strategy to move down the cost curve in our upstream businesses, and drive to record profitability in our midstream and downstream businesses. Challenges remain in this economy, but we approach them better prepared than ever before." In the latest period, Alcoa's average realized price for aluminum fell 9.3% from a year earlier but was up 2.4% from the prior quarter. Shipments of aluminum products rose 6.8%. Its margin of goods' costs to total sales narrowed to 15.1% from 20.9%. The company's profit had been surging during the first half of 2011 thanks to demand from automobile and aerospace companies and emerging markets like China. But that strength slipped as demand weakened in Europe, aluminum prices slumped and raw-materials costs climbed. In the last week, Alcoa has said it plans to cut alumina production by about 2% this year, in an effort to match output with its plans to reduce smelter capacity on global overcapacity and falling prices. The company in January unveiled plans to cut about 12% of its aluminum-smelting capacity, shedding its most expensive operations. Tuesday, Alcoa reiterated its expectations for global aluminum demand to increase 7% this year. Alcoa, an industrial bellwether that unofficially kicks off the U.S. earnings season, posted a first-quarter profit of $94 million, or nine cents a share, compared with a year-earlier profit $308 million, or 27 cents a share. Excluding mark-to-market changes and restructuring charges, the latest's quarter's results from continuing operations were 10 cents a share. The previous year's results included a penny per-share charge related to restructuring and acquisition costs. Revenue edged up 0.8% to $6.01 billion. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters predicted a loss of four cents a share on revenue of $5.77 billion. The company said commercial transportation revenue rose 32% from a year earlier, while aerospace revenue rose 15% and automotive revenue increased 7%. Revenue fell 14% in industrial products and slipped 5% in building and construction. Through the close, the stock has lost 48% in the past 12 months. -By Nathalie Tadena, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-3287;

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