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Alcoa raises demand outlook; China to be major consumer

2010-07-13 15:11

NEW YORK - Citing improved end-market demand, Alcoa Inc increased its outlook for 2010 global aluminum consumption on Monday, with China, not surprisingly, expected to grab the lion's share of global supply.

"China is obviously an important market, but also an important market for Alcoa. We have sales of around $1 billion in China. If you look at the last five years, we've had average growth rates of around 29 percent in that market," Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Klaus Kleinfeld said on Monday.

Speaking to analysts on a conference call after posting a second quarter profit, the executive said he thought China had been managing its supply/demand balance effectively by moving swiftly to take production offline when necessary.

In its outlook for 2010 primary aluminum, Alcoa reduced China's surplus from 400,000 tons in the prior quarter to 200,000 tons, and projected a 1.0 million-ton surplus for the Western World supply/demand balance.

At 16.5 million tons of primary aluminum demand, China will consume the largest chunk of the 39.2 million total tons forecast for 2010 global consumption.

At the same time, he said, China needs to make sure it has sufficient aluminum to meet consumer demand for things like refrigerators, washing machines and air conditioners.

Alcoa announced on Monday that it raised its 2010 global demand outlook to 12 percent from 10 percent. Minus China, that growth rate would drop to 6.5 percent.

"At the same time, we've seen additional production come online. So, we continue to believe we're going to have a (global) surplus this year of roughly 1.2 million tons."

Pittsburgh-based Alcoa cited stronger packaging, commercial transportation, and building and construction segments for its improved demand outlook. It posted a second-quarter profit that beat Wall Street estimates.  [Alcoa moves to Q2 profit on improved demand]

Assessing 2010 growth rates for its end markets, Alcoa said it looks for automotive demand to grow by 10 to 15 percent in China compared with 2009. It projects a similar growth rate for China's heavy truck and trailer segments. Alcoa forecasts a 7 percent increase in China's beverage can and packaging market.

For commercial building and construction, Alcoa said it expects China's sales growth to be up 10 to 15 percent in 2010.

For alumina, Alcoa expects the global market to be relatively balanced, forecasting a 700,000-ton surplus for China in 2010 and a Western World deficit of 500,000 tons.

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