Alcoa’s $90m profit shocks US analysts

ALUMINIUM giant Alcoa kicked off the US reporting season last night with a surprise first-quarter profit after it reaped the benefits of improved productivity and calmer global markets.

The New York-listed firm posted $94m (£59m) of income from continuing operations, or nine cents per share, compared with a profit of $309m, or 27 cents per share in the same quarter last year. Analysts had expected a loss of four cents a share for the start of 2012.

Shares in Alcoa, the world’s third-largest aluminium producer and a bellwether for the materials sector, rose six per cent to $9.80 in after-hours trading yesterday.

Alcoa had been hit by falling metals prices and the weak global recovery and posted a $193m loss for in the final three months of last year. Yesterday, however, chief executive Klaus Kleinfeld said the firm had benefited from improved productivity across all its businesses, higher realised prices for aluminium and better market conditions.

“Performance rebounded strongly this quarter due to our proactive cash sustainability actions, our relentless focus on profitable growth, and stabilising markets,” Kleinfeld said.

“Challenges remain in this economy, but we approach them better prepared than ever before,” he added.

Revenue inched up to $6bn, compared to $5.96bn for the same period last year. Alcoa forecasts a shortage in the supply of aluminium this year.

JP Morgan, Google and Wells Fargo are among the US firms due to report quarterly earnings later on in the week.