When all you read is gloom, turn here for a much different perspective.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Silver Lining in Aluminum

Alcoa (AA) kicked off earnings season and by all measures struggled in the first quarter. No surprise. However, like many other businesses, it's clear that Q1 is a bridging quarter for a much better 2009.

The big story from the aluminum company's release is management's upbeat assessment of their business moving foreword:

"Alcoa responded swiftly to the declines in our end markets and the historic drop in aluminum prices with a holistic program that dramatically re-positions our balance sheet and operational cost structure," said Klaus Kleinfeld, President and CEO of Alcoa. "The result has been a rapid increase in liquidity during the quarter and significant operational cost savings. Besides putting us in a strong position to manage through this downturn, we now have the strategic and operational fundamentals in place for Alcoa to emerge even stronger when the economy recovers."

"Our operational measures are already beginning to bear fruit in all our businesses," said Kleinfeld. "In our Primary Products segments, for example, since the third quarter of 2008 we have reduced the cost of producing alumina and aluminum by 33 and 30 percent, respectively. Pacing well ahead of our 25 percent reduction target, we expect our efforts to have a significant impact on Primary’s profitability and cash flow in 2009."

“We launched operational and financial measures that will significantly improve our profitability and cash flow in 2009 and beyond. In fact, they have already begun to have an impact in the first quarter,” said Kleinfeld.

“We also see both near-term and long-term catalysts that should improve the prospects for the aluminum industry,” said Kleinfeld. “Current stimulus programs that target infrastructure and energy efficiency will create a demand for the unique characteristics of aluminum – lightweight, strong, durable, recyclable, and conductive. Longer term, the global megatrends of population growth, urbanization, and environmental stewardship will all drive demand for aluminum as the economy improves.

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