NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Aluminum producer Alcoa Inc. posted a modest operating profit for its first quarter that met Wall Street expectations, as the Dow component became the first major company to report results for the period ended March 31.
Alcoa said it lost $194 million on continuing operations, or 19 cents per share, including charges for restructuring and other special items of $295 million, or 29 cents per share. Those charges included the cost of shuttering two smelters and a $112 million tax hit primarily from federal health care law changes.
Excluding the charges, Alcoa reported a profit of 10 cents per share, compared to a loss of 59 cents per share a year earlier. That's in line with the consensus forecast of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, who typically strip out one-time charges.
But Alcoa missed revenue forecasts. Sales rose 18% during the quarter, to $4.89 billion. Analysts had predicted revenue would climb 26%, to $5.24 billion, from $4.15 billion a year earlier.
Alcoa said its slim operating profit was driven by an uptick in metal prices. Aluminum prices rose 8% during the quarter, while alumina prices surged 13%, the company said.
"Our performance continued to improve in the first quarter thanks to higher realized prices and strong operational results," Alcoa chief executive Klaus Kleinfeld said in a statement. "Our markets are gradually improving and both policy trends and consumer sentiment bode well for aluminum demand."
He added that a push to increase fuel efficiency and use sustainable products will boost sales of aluminum.
Klaus also said that while 2010 production levels are still below 2007 levels, they are rebounding compared to last year in industries that use aluminum, including automotive.
Alcoa estimates aluminum consumption in China to surge by 18% this year.
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