Aluminum producer Alcoa Inc. (AA) said Tuesday it will shed 6,700 jobs as part of a restructuring program designed to improve profits and efficiency.

The Pittsburgh-based company also said it agreed to join its soft alloy extrusion business with the Sapa Group, part of Norway's Orkla ASA, in a joint venture the two firms intend to take public.

The new company, which will be majority owned by Orkla and operated by Sapa, is expected to be created by the end of the first quarter, pending government approval.

Alcoa's soft alloy extrusion business has about 6,400 employees at 22 plants in eight countries. It had shipments of 585,000 metric tons and revenue of $2.1 billion in 2005. An additional three soft alloy plants not included in the venture — in Warren, Ohio; Tifton, Ga.; and Plant City, Fla. — will be sold, the company said.

Sapa's smaller soft alloy business employs about 6,000 people at 18 facilities in 12 countries and shipped 275,000 metric tons for revenue of $1.3 billion.

The plant closings and consolidations are expected to save Alcoa approximately $125 million annually before taxes, according to the company. The job cuts represent about 5 percent of Alcoa's 129,000 employees in 44 countries.

"Through the first three quarters of 2006, we have generated more earnings than in any full year in our company's history, and in order to continue to move forward, we now need to take the difficult but necessary restructuring steps that will continue to maximize profitability across the company," Alcoa Chairman and Chief Executive Alain Belda said in a statement.

A total of 4,800 jobs will be eliminated in Alcoa's automotive and light vehicle wire harness and component operations, according to Alcoa, which has corporate headquarters in New York.

That includes closing manufacturing operations at the company's AFL Seixal plant in Portugal and restructuring its AFL light vehicle and component operations in the U.S. and Mexico.

Changes in the company's can sheet operations will result in the closure of a United Kingdom facility in Swansea and the elimination of about 320 positions. Those workers were notified of the closure Tuesday, said Alcoa spokesman Kevin Lowery.

About 370 positions will be cut in the U.S. and Europe because of restructuring in the company's hard alloy extrusion production operations, which serve the aerospace, automotive and industrial products markets.

Alcoa said it will eliminate 470 positions in its packaging production operations, while its primary metals and alumina operations will be trimmed by 330 positions "to further strengthen the company's position on the global cost curve."

The company expects fourth quarter charges of between $375 million and $425 million after tax, with about half that amount attributable to the soft alloy extrusion business.

Separately, Alcoa said it plans to book a gain of $85 million to $95 million related to the previously announced sale of its house siding business.

Alcoa shares rose 72 cents to close at $29.19 on the New York Stock Exchange and lost 2 cents in after-hours trading.