Alcoa beats on earnings, falls short on revenue

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Alcoa reported quarterly earnings that beat analysts' expectations on Wednesday, but its revenue fell slightly short.

The company, which is in the midst of a major business transformation push, reported adjusted first-quarter earnings per share of 28 cents on revenue of $5.82 billion.

Analysts had expected Alcoa to report earnings of 26 cents per share on $5.94 billion in revenue, according to a consensus estimate from Thomson Reuters.

After initially holding unchanged, the company's stock fell about 3 percent in after-hours trading following the earnings release.

Despite the revenue miss, the company took a positive outlook on its quarterly performance.

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"When you lift the hood on the profit side, you see a record performance on the upstream side," Klaus Kleinfeld, Alcoa's chairman and CEO, told CNBC. "Again, super, super good first quarter. And you see a very, very good performance on the downstream side."

That growth, he later explained on the earnings call, is driven by strong organic gains in Alcoa's automotive and aerospace businesses.

The CEO emphasized that his firm remains committed to its reorientation endeavors.

"First quarter results show our transformation is moving at ongoing high speed and is fully on course," Kleinfeld said in the earnings release. "We are organically and inorganically broadening our innovative, multi-material value-add businesses, bringing new capabilities and materials to our aerospace and automotive offerings, and taking swift action in the upstream, making it more competitive.

"We are pulling on all levers to create sustainable shareholder value," he added in the release.

An Alcoa employee in the production plant in Goose Creek, South Carolina.
Stephen Morton | Bloomberg | Getty Images
An Alcoa employee in the production plant in Goose Creek, South Carolina.

Last month, Alcoa announced it would buy titanium supplier RTI to help improve its aerospace business. The company had projected in January that it would see "another strong year" of 9 to 10 percent aerospace sales growth. The metals firm said it expected the acquisition to close in two to five months.

The company reiterated its year-long growth projections on Wednesday, most of which called for healthy growth in key sectors.

Alcoa estimated that global auto production would increase 2 to 4 percent for the year (including a 1 to 4 percent gain in North America). It also forecast "5 to 7 percent global sales growth in the commercial building and construction market, 1 to 3 percent global airfoil market growth in the industrial gas turbine market, and a 2 to 3 percent global sales increase in the packaging market."

The world aluminum market will be in a 326,000-tonne surplus in 2015, Alcoa said during its earnings call. That forecast differed sharply from the firm's January estimate of a 38,000-tonne deficit for 2015, largely driven by an increase in its estimate for output in top-producer China.

As for the oil and gas business, Kleinfeld told CNBC the Alcoa's minor interests in that sector have been little affected by the oil price downturn.

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Alcoa marks the unofficial start to the quarterly earnings season, and may correlates to the performance of the S&P 500 for the quarter. Since 2005, when Alcoa beat expectations, the S&P 500 was up 75 percent of the time for the quarter and averaged a 4.4 percent return. When the company missed, however, the index was up 65 percent of the time, but the average return was -0.24 percent.

In January, the company projected a 7 percent rise in global aluminum demand for 2015. Still, shares are down more than 13 percent year-to-date. For their part, Wall street bulls outnumbered bears going into the earnings announcement.

The company is in the midst of a reorienting its business model to expand its multi-material operations.

—Reuters and CNBC's Bob Pisani and Michelle Fox contributed to this report.