CHICAGO Century Aluminum
Co. returned to profitability in the first quarter but warned
that market volatility has increased.
"Overall we continue to expect
medium- and longer-term global trends to be favorable and are
thus executing our strategic plans," president and chief
executive officer Michael Bless said in a statement released
with earnings data after the market close April 25. "We are,
however, working to preserve considerable flexibility in the
present uncertain environment."
Among the concerns Bless cited
were mixed economic data out of China, which he said showed
industrial and consumer activity still growing but at a slower
pace. Growth in emerging markets also has slowed, and economic
conditions in Europe remain difficult.
Perhaps bucking the trend is the
United States, where "end markets remain generally strong,"
The Monterey, Calif.-based
aluminum producer posted net income of nearly $7.57 million in
the first three months of 2013 in contrast to a net loss of
$4.4 million in the same period last year on sales that slipped
1.5 percent to $321.27 million.
Century said it is continuing
rate discussions with Big Rivers Electric Corp., the power
provider to its Hawesville, Ky., smelter, but noted that it had
not yet reached an agreement.
"We remain optimistic that a
solution exists that would support the plants continued
operation and would have, at worst, no impact on any other
ratepayer in Kentucky," Bless said. If Century is able to
achieve what it considers to be a "market-based power price,"
Hawesville could "operate for many years to come."
The company has issued a Worker
Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice to the 750
employees at the 244,000-tonne-per-year Hawesville plant and
said it could idle the smelter by Aug. 20 unless it can secure
a better power deal with Henderson, Ky.-base Big Rivers (
amm.com, April 17).
Century contends that the
Hawesville operation requires a more competitive power rate.
Big Rivers has countered that it cannot provide power at less
than the cost to produce it.
Bless said the restart of
Centurys Ravenswood, W.Va., facility remains a priority
for the company, and discussions with the plants power
provider and other interested parties are ongoing.
Century also is in discussions
with the power supplier to its Helguvik, Iceland, operation and
is optimistic that an expected new government in the country
could allow major construction to resume at the site, Bless
said. "An adequate supply of power and a guarantee of the
necessary transmission capacity are the only impediments to a
full restart of this attractive project."