NEW YORK (TheStreet) – Alcoa(AA) - Get Report has much bigger ambitions than merely being regarded a global aluminum power. Slumping worldwide aluminum demand coupled with weak commodity pricing lessens the appeal of being one of the best in its category. But things are about to change, and it's not just with how Alcoa perceives itself.
With Alcoa shares down 15% so far in 2015, lagging the broader averages, investors should consider either starting a position now or add to an existing position to lower their cost basis. But it's not because Alcoa's earnings report on Wednesday will be extraordinary. In fact, earnings of 25 cents per share would mark a 24% drop from the fourth quarter when Alcoa earned 33 cents per share.
The company -- by it recent acquisitions and improved product portfolio -- is building for the future. Aside from selling off some of its traditional, yet costly, smelting facilities, today's Alcoa will be drastically different in the next couple of years, making Wednesday's projected earnings decline a non-event. What matters most is Alcoa's ability to make good on its promise to return value to shareholders by growing both long-tern revenue and profits.
While Alcoa is broadly known as the largest aluminum producer in the U.S., the New York-based company is transforming itself into a specialized metals business, making lightweight and high-performance materials. These are the type of materials craved by automakers including Ford(F) - Get Report and General Motors(GM) - Get Report, always looking for ways to make their cars and trucks more fuel-efficient.
Alcoa is also growing its expertise in areas like aerospace, making itself an important partner to the likes of Boeing(BA) - Get Report. In December, for instance, Alcoa has placed huge bets, such as picking off German-based Tital, a company that specializes in titanium and aluminum structural castings for aircraft engines and airframes.
Last June, Alcoa spent $3 billion for Firth Rixson, a U.K.-based maker of jet-engine components. Firth's position as the world’s largest supplier of seamless rings for aero-engines gives Alcoa yet another source of revenue with its rings and metal products business. And in March the company went shopping again, this time picking off RTI International Metals for $1.5 billion.
All told, in three separate deals, Alcoa gains access to higher-margins businesses while also diversifying its product portfolio, giving it increased expertise to service the aerospace and automotive industries. But not everyone agrees with this thesis. Analyst Brian Sozzi, a contributor to TheStreet and Real Money, thinks the "good times may be over, based on the slowing pace of auto sales, poor demand from the mining industry and, naturally, the influence of the strong dollar."
The strong U.S. dollar, which has devalued sales in overseas markets for many companies, has actually had a positive impact for Alcoa. In Alcoa's fourth quarter, for instance, Alcoa cited declining energy costs and a stronger U.S. dollar in helping which helping the company to almost triple its after-tax operating income.
Alcoa guided with confidence, saying it expects strong demand in 2015 for both its aerospace and automotive products. What's important to focus on is Alcoa's aerospace business is projected to grow at a much faster rate (9%) than its lower-margin commodity business, which is projected to grow at 7%.
In other words, Alcoa's transition away from underperforming businesses to more profitable ones is being executed as planned. So regardless of what the results reveal Wednesday, now's the time to buy the stock, especially with shares having a consensus buy rating and projected to climb 33% based on their average analysts 12-month price target of $18.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.