Commodities & Metals

Alcoa Earnings: A Mixed Harbinger for This Earnings Season

alcoa_logoAlcoa Inc. (NYSE: AA) is no longer a Dow Jones Industrial Average component, but it is still the first of the large earnings reports. Prior to Tuesday, the aluminum giant’s shares were down about 5% or so from its high of the year. The flip-side is that Alcoa shares were still up by more than 17% since the end of 2013.

The aluminum leader’s earnings came in at $0.09 per share and $5.45 billion in revenue. Thomson Reuters had estimates of $0.05 in earnings per share and $5.55 billion in revenue. The whisper number ahead of earnings was for earnings to be $0.07 or even $0.08 per share. For comparison, earnings were $0.04 EPS in the last quarter sequentially and $0.11 EPS in the same quarter a year ago. The net loss after items was $178  million, or -$0.16 per share. Alcoa also signaled that aluminum prices were down 8% from a year ago.

Alcoa ended with $665 million in cash on hand.

Alcoa does not give guidance until its conference call. The consensus estimates for the quarter ahead are $0.10 in earnings per share and $5.75 billion in revenue. In case we get guidance for the year – Thomson Reuters has the consensus estimates for 2014 as $0.37 in earnings per share (versus $0.33 in 2013) and revenue of $23.04 billion (flat versus 2013).

For the individual business , Alcoa showed the following data:

  • Engineered Products and Solutions  – ATOI was a first quarter record of $189 million, up $21 million, or 13 percent, sequentially and up $16 million, or 9 percent, year-over-year.
  • Global Rolled Products – ATOI in the first quarter was $59 million, including a charge of $11 million related to the permanent shutdown of the Australia rolling operations.
  • Alumina – ATOI in the first quarter was $92 million, up $22 million sequentially, a 31 percent improvement, and up $34 million year-over-year, a 59 percent improvement.
  • Primary Metals – ATOI in the first quarter was negative $15 million, up from negative $35 million sequentially, and down from $39 million in first quarter 2013.
  • Alcoa is increasing its 2014 global aerospace growth expectation by one percentage point (8 percent to 9 percent, previously 7 percent to 8 percent), on strong demand for both large commercial aircraft and regional jets and continued growth in the business jet market.
  • Continues to project 2014 growth in automotive (1 percent to 4 percent), packaging (2 percent to 3 percent), and building and construction (4 percent to 6 percent).
  • Expects a steady commercial transportation market (-1 percent to 3 percent) and a decline in the industrial gas turbine market (-8 percent to -12 percent) on lower orders for new gas turbines and spare parts.

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Alcoa shares closed up 6-cents at $12.53 against a 52-week range of $7.63 to $13.18. Shares were initially up 1.1% at $12.67 after the report, but we would consider this report as unfinished business until its guidance is seen. Its consensus price target ahead of the formal earnings report was $10.73 per share, but here is why Sterne Agee said Alcoa could rise to $15.

Again, Alcoa is used as a harbinger of what to expect from most companies tied to the economy. That may not be a fair expectation, but that is how Wall Street treats this company. If the pre-earnings barometer is true, then Alcoa left investors with the thought that earnings can be beat but on weak numbers and on weak sales.

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