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Loss-plagued Century sees better times ahead

Keywords: Tags  Century Aluminum, Michael Bless, earnings, LME, aluminum prices, Sebree, Hawesville, Mt. Holly Ravenswood facility

CHICAGO — Century Aluminum Co.’s losses widened in the fourth quarter as ramped up sales couldn’t make up for lower prices.

But the Chicago-based aluminum producer insisted that its prospects were strong in 2014 thanks in part to plant closures elsewhere and better demand, according to commentary released with earnings data Feb. 20.

“Markets are presently exhibiting significant uncertainty due to a variety of well publicized factors. Our industry is highly susceptible to these trends in the short-term,” Century president and chief executive officer Michael A. Bless said in a statement. “However, our confidence in more attractive future market conditions has only increased.”

Headwinds facing the aluminum industry include historically low prices for the light metal on the London Metal Exchange. The cash aluminum contract ended the LME’s official session Feb. 20 at $1,717.50 per tonne, down 16.8 percent from $2,065.50 per tonne on the same day last year.

Century’s direct shipments of primary aluminum totaled 485,690 tonnes in 2013 at an average price of 99 cents per pound, compared with 377,314 tonnes of primary aluminum shipments sold at an average of $1.03 per pound in 2012.

Prices fell dramatically in 2013, starting the first quarter at $1.06 per pound before diving to 94 cents in the fourth quarter, Century said.

Bless looked past the ballooning losses and touted increased production of—and demand for—value-added products from its plants in Sebree, Ky., and Hawesville, Ky. The company’s smelter in Grundartangi, Iceland, is also in an “excellent position to capitalize on strong demand and shrinking supply in key European markets,” he said.

Century continues to look to restart its idled smelter in Ravenswood, W.Va., and to look for “an acceptable post-2015 arrangement” for its facility in Mt. Holly, S.C., he said.

The power contract for the Mt. Holly facility expires in December 2015 (, Nov. 5).

The Ravenswood smelter has been idled for more than four years (, Feb. 4, 2009).

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