NEW YORK ( Real Money) -- Why isn't the stock doing as well as the company? That's pretty much how you feel after watching and listening to Alcoa (AA - Get Report) CEO Klaus Kleinfeld talk about the company's progress on last night's conference call about its first-quarter upside surprise -- and it was an upside surprise.
Here's a maker of one of the most versatile materials in the world, aluminum, forecasting a 7% growth rate for its products and saying that there is -- for the first time in ages -- a tightening of supply and demand. This company had previously been a hapless maker of a commodity with some downstream refined product, and it's become an outfit for which 70% of profit comes from proprietary materials developed specifically for the end user. This shift away from high-cost commodity producer, with only 25% of its profits coming from proprietary products, occurred in 10 years' time.
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Kleinfeld said there's been no cessation of demand, and that business is still excellent in China. Alcoa is a company taht sells into the red-hot aerospace industry, one that is growing at a 9%-to-10% clip, except for the big birds, which are growing at about 12% and are currently enjoying a backlog of 9,400 planes. Alcoa is now a huge amount parts maker for large planes, $3.3 million to $3.8 million, in both the largest Boeing (BA) and Airbus jets.Aluminum's other big uses -- autos, construction and cans -- are all seeing an uptick at Alcoa. Only trucks are seeing some diminution. The company has $1.6 billion in cash, and is predicting a nice up year with positive free cash flow virtually guaranteed. Yet, what happens when it reports an upside surprise, its best number in two years? It gets hammered. Right in front of your eyes. Despite the congratulations on the call. Despite the recognition of the incredible improvement in this business. Despite the stewardship through a difficult Europe. Nothing seems to matter.