Alcoa Results Harbinger Of Bad News To Come (Or Not)

As goes Alcoa, so go the quarterlies, the sentiment on the Street has it, and the sentiment was rough yesterday. The company reported adjusted first-quarter earnings of 7 cents per share on $4.95 billion in revenue after the close of regular trading. Earnings were 28 cents per share for the prior-year and revenue was $5.82 billion.

“Shares of Alcoa, whose report is often regarded as the start of earnings season, dipped nearly 5% in after-hours trading,” reports CNBC’s Jacob Pramuk. But earnings actually beat analysts’ expectations, which were 2 cents per share, although revenue was less than anticipated — $5.14 billion, according to a consensus estimate from Thomson Reuters.

Forbes’ Lauren Gensler points out that the Manhattan-based global mining and materials company “has been hammered by the decline in aluminum prices, with the metal trading for roughly $1,500 per metric ton on the London Metal Exchange, down from $1,800 a year ago. It has also been negatively impacted by unfavorable currency exchange rates. To offset these headwinds, it has been cutting costs and has also shed various businesses, including a medical device company.”



Alcoa, which has about 60,000 employees, may lay off up to 2,000 people, it says. It has already eliminated 600 jobs this year and will cut at least 400 more. They would “be mostly in Alcoa's aerospace-parts business and would be spread across many countries,” the AP reports.

“The metals maker’s lukewarm results Monday underscore the company’s motive in spinning off its more profitable aerospace and automotive-focused business in the second half of this year,” observe Tess Stynes and John W. Miller for the Wall Street Journal.

“The company is in the process of spinning off its faster-growing business units into a separate company, to be named Arconic. Alcoa reiterated that the spinoff remains on track for completion in the second half of this year and noted that profit grew at those businesses in the first quarter.”

In addition, Alcoa CEO Klaus Kleinfeld tells Reuters’ Nick Carey that the company expects global aluminum demand to grow by 5% this year, while supply should increase by 2%.

“That should create additional price support” for aluminum, he said. Kleinfeld also tells Carey “the company's closure or sale of some smelters was a way to ‘achieve the profitability that we want to get to.’”

The Financial Times’ Ed Crooks and Mamta Badkar report that Kleinfeld “rejected the suggestion that tougher market conditions could mean that this was a bad time to be breaking up the company, saying that it had modeled a range of different conditions when deciding on the split last year. ‘It’s all pointing in the right direction,’ he said.”

They add, “investors and analysts have urged the company to make such a separation for some time, arguing that the stock market will not fully reflect the value of the specialized engineering operations while they are tied to the commodity aluminum business.”

The Arconic brand will launch in the second half. “Working alongside our customers, we solve complex engineering challenges to transform the way we fly, drive, build, package and power,” according to Web site copy. The tagline is “Arconic. Innovation, engineered.”

Alcoa, meanwhile, is being positioned as “A Strong Brand. Evolved.” It also has a new logo that “is removed from its enclosure, characterizing our out-of-the-box thinking.”

A recording of yesterday’s earnings call can be heard here.

“A total of 15 companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 are expected to report their first-quarter results this week including banks like JPMorgan Chase, financial firm BlackRockand Delta Air Lines, says S&P Global. Overall, the news is not expected to be very good, with analysts expecting overall earnings to fall about 8% from last year,” Matt Krantz reports for USA Today.

But “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer, for one, is not buying into all the negativity out there.

“I think we should be prepared for a bit of a different narrative, and we need to be a little more bullish than the skeptics who have already written off this earnings season as an ugly one,” Cramer said yesterday, according to CNBC digital producer Aligail Stevenson.

One trouble may be that politicians don’t seem to think they can get elected by telling the people that everything’s hunky-dory, he suggests, even if the reality is that “things are better than last earnings period.”

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