Amid low prices, Alcoa weighs production cutbacks

Alcoa considers reducing aluminum production as it deals with low prices

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Alcoa Inc. said Wednesday that it might reduce production because of a slump that has cut aluminum prices by more than one-third since they peaked in 2011.

The reduction could affect up to 11 percent of Alcoa's aluminum-smelting capacity, a cut of 460,000 tons of capacity. The company has already idled 13 percent of its capacity.

Alcoa said it would take the next 15 months to review capacity with a focus on plants that have "long-term risk" such as high energy costs or regulatory uncertainty.

"Because of persistent weakness in global aluminum prices, we need to review every option to maintain Alcoa's competitiveness," Chris Ayers, president of Alcoa's primary products unit, said in a statement.

Three weeks ago, Alcoa reported a 59 percent increase in first-quarter net income fueled by rising demand for aluminum in cars and airplanes. The profit beat expectations, although revenue was disappointing.

In April, Alcoa stood by its forecast that global demand for aluminum will rise 7 percent this year and said that production cutbacks in China were helping address a glut that has kept prices down.

Over the past several years, Alcoa has shifted more of its business from mining and refining to making aluminum parts for industry. CEO Klaus Kleinfeld has said that the company will reduce its exposure to weak aluminum prices by cutting its dependence on mining and smelting and by closing expensive refining operations.

Alcoa shares fell 7 cents to $8.43 in midday trading. They have lost about 80 percent since June 2008, as the global recession weakened demand for aluminum.

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