Alcoa is managing for cash, CFO says
November 7, 2012
By:  Andrea Hotter

US aluminium producer Alcoa is committed to its investment grade rating and entered 2012 "managing for cash", its chief financial officer said.

Chuck McLane told investors at a New York briefing that its cash sustainability programme has helped the company achieve a net debt reduction of 30% since 2008.

Net debt in 2008 was $9.816 billion, and fell to $7.432 billion last year, he said.

In 2012, Alcoa forecasts its net debt to be $6.8-7.1 billion.

"We were [affected] very quickly by the downturn and we've been continually trying to manage cash, and taking the right actions to be a stronger, more resilient company," McLane said.

This includes disciplined capital management to sustain and grow capital, action to manage the company's debt maturity schedule, and cash sustainability, allowing the firm to significantly strengthen its liquidity position, he added.

Alcoa's exceeded its 2012 $800 million productivity target to reach $838 million, and beat its $50 million overheads target to reach $57 million.

The company is taking a "very prudent approach to growth capital expenditure", McLane said, but without risking taking advantage of good opportunities that arise.

"We've got lots of tools at our disposal to push for productivity gains, disciplined capital management, reducing our days working capital and, where necessary, asset sales," he told investors.

"We're not going to do anything stupid; it'll be a disciplined approach."

Alcoa's desire to stay investment grade is down to three factors: cost, reputation and flexibility, McLane said.

Flexibility is the most important of these, he added.

"We can easily trade in the commercial paper market, we have no collateral issues on joint-venture or supply agreements, and we have access to short-term loans, for instance," McLane said.

"All of these things would be challenged if we dropped below investment grade," he added.