Alcoa, the world’s biggest aluminium maker by revenue wishes there were less aluminium in the world, but it says there is only so much it can do about it.
Alcoa Inc., traditionally the first out of the earnings season gate, is witnessing a seventh consecutive quarter of falling or flat raw aluminium prices on the London Metal Exchange, despite its own moves to curtail production.
The depressed raw aluminium price, which chiefly dents profit in the company’s primary metals division, is the main reason company profit in the first quarter is expected to fall one cent to eight cents a share, even though many of Alcoa’s biggest customers — makers of airplanes, cars and beverage cans — are either doing just fine or thriving.
Speculators are busy shorting aluminium, part of a wide selloff
in commodities, causing turmoil in the broader mining and metals sector. More than 20 mining CEOs have lost their jobs over the past 18 months. Massive mining projects are being suspended or put on hold. Inventories in warehouses are at record highs. Production in China, the chief source of global oversupply, is expected to increase a whopping 9% to 24.3 million metric tonnes this year. The LME price has dropped to under $1,900 per ton, down from over $2,500 two years ago, and more than $3,000 before the financial crisis.
Klaus Kleinfeld, Alcoa CEO since 2008, isn’t sitting on his hands. He closed smelters and production lines, slashing annual production capacity by 531,000 metric tonnes in 2012, or 12% of the company’s total.“We focus on the things that we can control to maximize value,” he told analysts.