PITTSBURGH – Alcoa Inc., the world's No. 1 producer of aluminum, on Tuesday reported a net loss for the fourth quarter amid depressed demand and low metal prices as the company reported massive costs related to restructuring, insolvencies, and a smelter power failure.
Alcoa posted a net loss for the quarter of $142 million, or 17 cents per share, after taking restructuring charges of $241 million, or 28 cents per share.
Before charges, the company reported a profit of $99 million, or 11 cents per diluted share -- slightly better than lowered guidance, compared with $392 million, or 45 cents per share, a year earlier.
Net costs related to customer insolvencies and power failure at the company's Warrick, Indiana smelter totaled $72 million before taxes for the quarter. The company said the remainder of the costs related to the smelter's failure will be recorded in the first quarter of 2002.
The consensus of 15 Wall Street analysts was for the company -- a component in the Dow Jones Industrial Average -- to earn 10 cents per share, according to estimates from research firm Thomson Financial/First Call.
``The one element here that stands out is that the economy in the fourth quarter was exceptionally weak and, in Alcoa's case, that reflects weak aluminum end demand and weak aluminum pricing,'' said Mark Parr, an analyst with Cleveland-based McDonald Investments. ``My sense is that the market will accept this earnings performance as expected.''
Alcoa warned last month that it would miss Wall Street's consensus estimate of 30 cents per share for the fourth quarter due to weaker-than-expected demand and customer bad debts and claims.
``We are not satisfied with these results,'' Chief Executive Alain Belda said in a statement. ``We are confident that the restructuring of our primary and fabricating businesses ... will enable us to resume sustainable savings and profitable growth in 2002 and beyond.''
Alcoa said that while the near-term business environment remains challenging, it is on track to meet its target of $1 billion in annual savings by 2003 and so far has realized $348 million in those savings. The company said it will begin to see savings from its restructuring measures during the current quarter.
In November, Alcoa said it would cut 6,500 jobs, or 4.6 percent of its work force, in both North America and Europe to make its sprawling manufacturing operations more efficient.
Aluminum prices have begun to firm since striking a 30-month low of $1,260 a metric ton in November on the London Metal Exchange. On Tuesday, aluminum prices had climbed to $1,428.50 a metric ton.
Parr said that although pricing has recovered somewhat, he does not expect to see a recovery in demand in the near term.
``If anything, we could see some weakening of demand in the first quarter if automotive production slows as scheduled,'' he said.
For the full year, Alcoa earned $908 million, or $1.05 per share after charges, compared with $1.484 billion, or $1.80 per share in 2000. Alcoa recorded special charges totaling $355 million, or 41 cents per share, in 2001.
Revenues for the quarter fell to $5.2 billion, from $6.6 billion in the year-ago period. Full-year revenues were flat versus $22.9 billion during 2000.
Parr said despite Alcoa's disappointing performance in 2001, the company's stringent cost-cutting efforts have positioned it for a turnaround once the economy recovers.
``The number ... reflects the company's very strong resolve in maintaining an appropriate cost structure as well as positioning itself to benefit from an upturn in the market,'' Parr said. ``It was a nonevent.''