NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Alcoa (AA) - Get Report , the largest aluminum producer in the U.S., will report third-quarter 2015 results after the closing bell Thursday. Investors looking for a cheap stock with the potential for market-beating gains in the next 12 to 18 months, should consider Alcoa, which is down some 32% on the year to date and 21% over the past six months.
For starters, aluminum demand is projected to climb in the next couple of years, according to a recent report by Reuters. In the next 10 years, global aluminum demand is expected to surge some 225%, climbing from 24 million to 78 million metric tons by 2025, said Alfredo Barrios CEO of aluminum company Rio Tinto (RIO) - Get Report .
At a recent International Aluminum conference in Vancouver, Barrios described the demand for aluminum products as "clearly healthy." The executive pointed out that the issue hurting the aluminum industry now is "excessive supply," and reminded analysts that the aluminum market should stabilize in the next five years. This bodes well for Alcoa's prospects.
With AA stock trading between $10 and $11, some 74% below its all-time high of $41.50, there's an implied bearishness in Alcoa's future. But given the optimism from one of its biggest rivals, investors would do well to consider adding Alcoa shares to an existing position, not only for a potential rebound in aluminum demand, but to also lower your cost basis by buying at cheaper levels.
What's more, Alcoa recently revealed plans to split itself into two companies -- the value-added business (aerospace/automotive) and upstream portfolio (aluminum). "We believe the announced split will achieve the long-term goal of unlocking significant value," said Sterne Agee analyst Josh Sullivan.
Need another reason to consider Alcoa? Even if aluminum demand doesn't pick up to the extent described by Barrios, Alcoa, which is transforming and diversifying itself to more than just an aluminum company, should prosper. Alcoa has developed expertise in specialized metals used to make lightweight and high-performance materials -- products craved by automakers like Ford (F) - Get Report and General Motors (GM) - Get Report , which are always looking for ways to make their cars and trucks more fuel-efficient.
From my vantage point, the fact that Alcoa's earnings-per-share for the just-ended quarter and full year are projected to decline respectively by 51% and 14%, respectively, is already factored in the stock price. What is seemingly being ignored is the extent to which Alcoa can turn things around.
Accordingly, based on fiscal 2016 earnings estimates of 88 cents a share (11% projected earnings growth), Alcoa, which has a consensus buy rating and an average analyst 12-month price target of $12.50, remains a solid long-term bet.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.