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Why I Love Alcoa but Hate the Stock

Stocks in this article: AA BA

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Aluminum giant Alcoa (AA) has always had an excellent management team. Aside from being in a business with excellent long-term prospects -- able to grow commensurately to the world's population -- the company's leadership team has always served as one of Alcoa's most attractive qualities.

However, these days I can't say the same for the stock. It's not because management isn't doing what it can to produce value for shareholders. Right now, Wall Street just doesn't care enough to wait.

In its most recent quarter Alcoa generated no EPS on revenue of $5.963 billion. However, when excluding special items, the company did earn 6 cents a share, topping analyst estimates of 5 cents. It also generated $246 million in free cash flow.

How should investors view this performance? Although the company did register a small beat, it was on estimates that have been revised lower over during the quarter.

The good news is Alcoa is performing as well as can be expected considering what it has had to deal with this year. This includes double-digit declines in aluminum prices that have adversely impacted both its gross margins, down 7 points, as well as operating margins, down 77%.

As it stands, year-over-year prices dropped 18% last year and 4% this year, negatively impacting not only the company's top line, but also its profitability.

So the fact the stock is at $8 is a testament to the respect and trust the company's management team has earned. But at the same time there is no near-term catalyst to suggest the stock should be trading higher from current levels.

By all accounts the valuation appears fair. For now, the company continues to work on productivity as well as efficiency improvements including reducing capacity.

In the long term, these moves will help improve the company's profitability while it waits for aluminum prices to stabilize. Alcoa continues to perform exceptionally well in its mid- and downstream operations while registering 20% operating margin in its Engineering Products and Solutions segment.

But it seems that we've been down this road before since this quarter was not much different from the first quarter.

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