Alcoa posts $2.3-billion loss in fourth quarter on write-downs

Alcoa Inc. reported a $2.34-billion loss in the fourth quarter as it wrote down the value of years-old aluminum-smelting acquisitions to shift its focus to more profitable businesses.

An adjusted measure of profit fell short of Wall Street expectations as revenue dropped 5% to $5.59 billion.


Its shares, which closed down 14 cents, or 1.3%, at $10.69 on Thursday, fell an additional 3.7% to $10.30 in aftermarket trading.

Alcoa is struggling with stubbornly weak aluminum prices. The company was paid an average of 7% less for the metal in the quarter than it received in the same period a year earlier. Alcoa is hoping that demand for aluminum in airplanes and autos will help boost prices. It predicted that overall demand would grow 7% this year, the same as in 2013.

Alcoa has idled one-sixth of its smelting capacity. The company sees a brighter future in its segments that produce rolled aluminum and engineered products, which accounted for 57% of its revenue in 2013.

In the fourth quarter, Alcoa's loss equaled $2.19 a share. A year earlier, the company earned $242 million, or 21 cents a share.

The company said that without the smelting write-downs, restructuring charges and other special items, it would have earned 4 cents a share. Analysts were expecting 6 cents a share.

Its $5.59 billion in revenue beat the forecast of $5.36 billion from analysts surveyed by FactSet.

The company released fourth-quarter results just hours after announcing that a joint venture of which Alcoa owns 60% pleaded guilty to bribing officials in the Middle East kingdom of Bahrain. The affiliate and Alcoa agreed to pay $384 million in penalties.

The joint venture admitted bribing officials in Bahrain through a London-based middleman. The affiliate, Alcoa World Alumina, will pay $223 million in fines and criminal penalties for violating a federal law against bribing foreign officials, and the parent company agreed to pay a civil penalty of $161 million for related violations of Securities and Exchange Commission rules.

In 2012, Alcoa settled related claims by state-controlled Aluminum Bahrain for $85 million.

Chief Financial Officer William Oplinger told reporters that the penalties will be "manageable" because they will be spread over five payments. With the plea deal and the write-down of smelting acquisitions made at least a decade ago, "We've put a number of legacy matters behind us," he said.