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Expectations Are Still High for Alcoa

On Thursday, investors should tune in to hear how the company performed within each business segment. Given that the company's overall revenue is expected to decline 8%, there's really no other way to assess how Alcoa is actually performing beyond specifics like, say, cash flow and after-tax-operating-income (ATOI), which is a non-GAAP performance metric that excludes any after-tax benefits and/or charges.

What this means is that, even if Alcoa does report the expected 8% revenue decline, along with a 1-cent decline in earnings per shares, this does not mean the company is in any worse shape than it were a year ago. Essentially, even amid the global sluggishness, if management shows meaningful improvements in ATOI and adjusted Ebitda, that means they still figured out ways to increase the overall value of the company.

Likewise, investors should also pay special attention to any developments about the company's recent investments in areas such as China. Although China's economy has been anything but robust, management has placed some huge bets on that region, predicting that China would account for roughly 50% of its projected demand growth. It is this year, 2014, when the company should begin to realize dividends on those investments.

All told, even though investors have valid reasons to be frustrated with the stock's perceived underperformance, management has outperformed its own expectations. I don't believe the poor aluminum industry is a valid reflection of how well-managed Alcoa really is.

Accordingly, investors should separate the company's absolute performance on Thursday from the industry's persistent struggles. To that end, I still see roughly 15% upside potential in Alcoa stock, on the basis of growing ATOI and improved aluminum prices.

At the time of publication, the author held no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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