Alcoa Meets EPS Forecast On Rise In Revenue, Free Cash Flow Turns Negative

Alcoa was expected to generate $(0.03) in EPS in Q4 and so it did. However, it took it 5.99 billion in top line revenue just to not miss traditionally lowered Wall Street estimates. This compares to the $5.7 billion it was expected to make: so there goes your margin. And when one looks at EPS on a purely operational basis, the Company had a loss from operations of $193 million or $(0.18) EPS which included a $74 million benefit from taxes. But of course who cares: after all Alcoa reported "restructuring and other charges" of a whopping $232 million for the quarter, just to make sure everything is apples to oranges. Otherwise the reported $445 million in EBITDA (on $449 million in consensus) would have been more like $200 million. Even so: EBITDA margin dropped from 13.8% in Q4 2010, and 12.8% in Q3 2011, to a measly 7.4% in Q4 2011. Other notable items: CapEx jumped from $325 million in Q3 to $486 million in Q4, meaning that based on the traditional Free Cash Flow definition of EBITDA-CapEx, that used for bond indenture purposes, Alcoa actually burned cash in Q4. Finally, the company forecasts global aluminum demand and supply deficit (probably does not explain why it has been shuttering smelter capacity all around the world) of 7% in 2012- a big drop from recent years. All in all - not quite the right way to start the new year.

So that's the data ex-spin. Here is how management presented it:

4Q 2011 Highlights

  • Loss from continuing operations of $193 million, or $0.18 per share; excluding special items, loss from continuing operations of $34 million, or $0.03 per share
  • Revenue of $6 billion, down 7 percent sequentially, up 6 percent from 4Q 2010
  • Cash from operations of $1.14 billion, up $653 million from 3Q 2011
  • Record low days working capital
  • Free cash flow of $656 million
  • Cash on hand of $1.9 billion
  • 531,000 metric tons of capacity closed or curtailed to improve competitive position
  • Forecasting 7 percent growth in global aluminum demand and a global aluminum supply deficit in 2012

“Alcoa turned in solid performance in a volatile year by responding quickly to changing market conditions and relentlessly managing cash. We stayed focused on growth and took aggressive action to cut costs, improve our competitiveness, and strengthen our balance sheet,” said Alcoa Chairman and CEO Klaus Kleinfeld.

“For 2012, we expect global aluminum demand to grow 7 percent and are forecasting a global deficit in primary aluminum supply.”

Alcoa’s growth projection is ahead of the 6.5 percent rate required to meet the Company’s forecast of a doubling in global aluminum demand between 2010 and 2020. Aluminum demand grew 10 percent in 2011 on top of 13 percent growth seen in 2010.

Alcoa also projects that growing demand for aluminum, combined with market-related production cutbacks, will result in a global aluminum industry deficit of 600,000 metric tons in 2012.

Alcoa projects global growth in the aerospace (10-11 percent), automotive (3-8 percent), commercial transportation (2-5 percent), packaging (2-3 percent), and building and construction (4-5 percent) markets.

Net result: AA flat after hours which may be good considering today's run up into the close.

Full earnings here.