Alcoa Reports Slim Profit; Misses Forecast

Aluminum maker Alcoa Inc. on Monday reported a slim operating profit for the fourth quarter, but missed Wall Street expectations, as the Dow component became the first major company to report results for the period.

The company said it lost $266 million, or 27 cents per share, including charges for restructuring and special items of $275 million, or 28 cents per share. Excluding the charges, Alcoa (AA, Fortune 500) posted a profit in the quarter of about 1 cent a share, compared to a loss of 28 cents in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected earnings per share of 6 cents per share.

Alcoa posted a net loss of $277 million, or 28 cents a share, in the fourth quarter, compared to a loss of $1.19 billion, or $1.49, a year earlier.

Revenue fell 4% in the quarter, to $5.43 billion. Analysts had predicted revenue would fall 15% to $4.9 billion from $5.69 billion a year earlier.

“It’s clearly not a quarter that will blow people’s socks off,” said Jorge Beristain, analyst at Deutsche Bank. But there is not not enough negative news for investors to abandon Alcoa’s stock, he added.

“This was a tough year for the aluminum industry,” Klaus Kleinfeld, Alcoa chief executive said in a statement, “a price crash, demand destruction, and credit crunch. Yet, today Alcoa is stronger than when the year started.”

Aluminum prices plunged 60% in fewer than five months, bottoming at the end of the first quarter of 2009. Since then, prices have ticked higher, rising 9% during the last quarter, according to Alcoa, and have helped the company report a profit during the last two quarter of 2009.

Beristain said that climbing metal prices could benefit Alcoa and help the aluminum producer increase its profit in upcoming quarters.

To boost savings, Alcoa chief financial officer Chuck McLane said the company identified 24,600 cuts to make in its workforce to save an annualized $600 million. In 2009, the company shed 21,500 positions to save $325 million in cash.

Alcoa’s headcount is down to 59,000, and the company plans to make the remainder of the cuts by the end of the first quarter of 2010. About 75% of the eliminations are permanent reductions, McLane said during a conference call.

For the full year, Alcoa posted a net loss of $1.15 billion, or $1.23 per share, on revenue of $18.44 billion. That compared to a loss of $74 million, or 10 cents a share, in 2008.

Shares of Alcoa were down more than 5% in after-hours trading

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