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Alcoa ‘managing for cash,’ flexibility, finance chief says

Keywords: Tags  Alcoa, Chuck McLane, aluminum, Andrea Hotter

NEW YORK — Alcoa Inc. is committed to its investment-grade rating and entered 2012 "managing for cash," the aluminum producer’s executive vice president and chief financial officer said.

Chuck McLane told investors at a New York briefing that Alcoa’s cash sustainability program has helped the company achieve a net debt reduction of 30 percent since 2008.

Net debt fell to $7.43 billion last year from $9.82 billion in 2008, he said.

Alcoa expects its net debt for this year to land between $6.8 billion and $7.1 billion.

"We were (affected) very quickly by the downturn, and we’ve been continually trying to manage cash and (take) 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 company to significantly strengthen its liquidity position, he added.

The Pittsburgh-based company exceeded its 2012 productivity target of $800 million, reaching $838 million; and beat its $50-million overheads target, reaching $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 maintain an investment-grade rating comes 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 (status)."

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