Fourth quarter 2011: Lower sales and prices, solid production performance
Feb 16, 2012
OTC Disclosure News Service
Oslo, Norway –
Hydro’s underlying earnings before financial items and tax amounted to NOK 1,133 million in the fourth quarter, down from NOK 1,646 million in the previous quarter. Lower aluminium prices, seasonal decline in demand and weaker markets weighed down underlying results for the quarter.
“Based on ambitious and effective improvement efforts in 2011, Hydro is entering into 2012 with a robust financial and operational platform. Fourth-quarter results reflect weaker markets and a drop in demand for aluminium and aluminium products, especially in Europe, where we clearly need to continue our restructuring efforts,” Hydro’s President and CEO Svein Richard Brandtzæg said.
“We have taken swift measures to improve operations, and we are prepared for further corrective measures. We maintain our expectation of 3-5 percent growth in aluminium demand for 2012 outside China despite a weak macro-economic situation and short-term challenges, however the long-term fundamentals for the aluminium industry remain positive,” Brandtzæg said.
Due to the deteriorating market conditions and cost pressures, Hydro wrote down fixed assets by NOK 1.3 billion in the quarter. These charges are excluded from underlying results.
Underlying EBIT for Bauxite Alumina declined compared to the third quarter primarily due to lower LME linked alumina prices. Bauxite production reached record levels during the quarter as a result of improved operational stability.
For Primary Metal lower realized aluminium prices, lower premiums and reduced sales volumes impacted underlying EBIT in the fourth quarter. Production volumes increased mainly due to additional volumes from Qatalum.
Hydro’s midstream operations incurred an underlying loss for the quarter due to significant negative currency effects. Underlying EBIT excluding currency effects declined somewhat, influenced by lower results from sourcing and trading activities.
Underlying EBIT for Hydro’s downstream business deteriorated from the third quarter result, impacted by seasonal declines and weak market developments, in particular for our European extrusion business.
Energy delivered solid underlying results for the quarter with continued high production despite declining somewhat compared to the third quarter.
Responding to market developments, Hydro has reduced remelt production and strengthened its focus on improvement programs and financial discipline. Cost and other improvements in Primary Metal amounted to roughly NOK 1 billion in 2011 compared to 2009 operating cost levels. In January 2012, Hydro decided to curtail 60,000 mt of annual production capacity at its Kurri Kurri aluminium smelter which has been negatively impacted by low aluminium prices, increased raw material costs and the strong Australian dollar. Further production efficiency and cost reduction initiatives have been implemented across Hydro’s downstream operations. This includes measures to turn around our Building Systems business targeting annual cost improvements of EUR 40 million by the end of 2012 compared to 2010.
Approximately NOK 1 billion of the write down discussed above relates to assets in the Kurri Kurri plant. Of the remainder, about NOK 230 million relates to Hydro’s building systems operation in Southern Europe. In addition, Hydro wrote down approximately NOK 300 million of deferred tax assets related to its operations in Australia and Southern Europe.
During the fourth quarter, Hydro completed the divestment of its interest in the Alpart alumina refinery in Jamaica resulting in an after tax gain of NOK 465 million.
Operating cash flow amounted to NOK 3.5 billion for the quarter. Net cash used for investment activities amounted to NOK 1.3 billion. At the end of 2011 Hydro’s net cash position was NOK 1.7 billion.
For the full year 2011, underlying EBIT increased to NOK 6,133 million compared with NOK 3,351 million in 2010. Higher realized alumina and aluminium prices, and higher production volumes due to the Vale acquisition and completion of Qatalum had a positive effect on developments for the year.
There continues to be significant uncertainty regarding global economic developments impacting the aluminium industry in general. Market developments in Southern Europe in particular are expected to remain weak.
Hydro’s Board of Directors proposes to pay a dividend of NOK 0.75 per share for 2011 reflecting the company’s strong commitment to provide a cash return to its shareholders. The dividend reflects our operational performance for 2011 and a strong financial position, also taking into consideration the uncertain market outlook.
Key financial information
NOK million, except per share data
% change prior quarter
% change prior year quarter
Earnings before financial items and tax (EBIT)
Items excluded from underlying EBIT
Underlying EBIT :
Other and eliminations
Net income (loss)
Underlying net income (loss)
Earnings per share
Underlying earnings per share
Adjusted net interest-bearing debt
Key Operational information
Alumina production (kmt)
Primary aluminium production (kmt)
Realized aluminium price LME (USD/mt)
Realized aluminium price LME (NOK/mt)
Realized NOK/USD exchange rate
Metal Markets sales volumes to external market (kmt)
Rolled Products sales volumes to external market (kmt)
Extruded Products sales volumes to external market (kmt)
Power production (GWh)
Pro forma underlying financial and operating results
There are no differences between Hydro’s actual and proforma underlying financial and operating results for the fourth and third quarter comparative periods in 2011. Please see the Profoma information section later in this report for a discussion on developments compared to earlier periods.
To provide a better understanding of Hydro’s underlying performance, the following discussion of operating performance excludes certain items from EBIT (earnings before financial items and tax) and net income. See “Items excluded from underlying EBIT and net income” later in this report for more information on these items.
Acquisition of Vale’s aluminium business
On February 28, 2011 Hydro completed the take-over of the majority of Vale’s aluminium business in Brazil. Effective from the first quarter of 2011, we have included a new operating segment, Bauxite Alumina, in our reporting structure in addition to our other five operating segments. In addition to the assets acquired from Vale, Hydro’s bauxite and alumina activities previously included in the Primary Metal segment have been transferred to the new Bauxite Alumina segment and prior periods have been restated. Primary Metal includes the Albras aluminium plant in addition to Hydro’s pre-transaction primary aluminium production activities. Effective from the first quarter of 2011, elimination of internal gains and losses on alumina previously included in the Primary Metal segment is included in Other and Eliminations, and prior periods have been restated.
The following discussion on reported and underlying operating results includes the acquired bauxite and alumina activities from Vale from March 1, 2011. Amounts relating to previous periods have not been restated to reflect the reported and underlying results of the acquired assets.
Pro forma information related to acquisition of Vale’s aluminium business
To provide a presentation of Hydro’s performance on comparable basis, certain pro forma financial and operating information is also presented in this report based on including the results of the acquired Vale assets for the full calendar quarter and for all previous periods presented in this report. See “Fourth quarter report 2011” for more information on the acquisition and the pro forma information included in our second quarter report.
Reported EBIT and net income
Hydro incurred a reported loss before financial items and tax of NOK 362 million in the fourth quarter including net unrealized derivative losses of NOK 379 million, negative metal effects of NOK 134 million, rationalization and closure costs of NOK 121 million, impairment charges of NOK 1,326 million and gains on divestments of NOK 465 million.
In the previous quarter, reported EBIT for Hydro amounted to NOK 2,222 million including net unrealized derivative gains of NOK 6 million, negative metal effects of NOK 77 million, rationalization and closure costs of NOK 28 million and gains on divestments of NOK 674 million.
Hydro incurred a net loss for the fourth quarter amounting to NOK 749 million including net foreign exchange losses of NOK 28 million. In the third quarter net income amounted to NOK 797 million including net foreign exchange losses of NOK 1,248 million.
Market developments and outlook
Bauxite and alumina
Global demand for alumina outside China was slightly higher in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter mainly due to the ramp-up of new primary metal production capacity. Annualized alumina production outside China amounted to about 56 million mt.
Alumina demand in China was stable compared with the third quarter while production declined.
Platts alumina spot prices fell during the fourth quarter from around USD 360 per mt in the start of the quarter to USD 305 per mt in the end of the quarter. Spot prices have ranged between 15 -17 percent of LME during the period.
We expect a fairly stable alumina market for the first quarter of 2012.
LME prices declined further in the final quarter of 2011 from a level around USD 2,200 per mt at the beginning of the quarter, ending around USD 2,000 per mt.Prices measured in NOK and EUR declined to a lesser extent due to a strengthening of the USD during the quarter. LME prices increased in January 2012 to levels between USD 2,200 – USD 2,300 per mt.
Global demand for primary aluminium (excluding China) was seasonally lower during the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter, and also impacted by weak markets. Annualized consumption amounted to 24.7 million mt.Corresponding global supply increased somewhat in the fourth quarter, with annualized production amounting to 26.6 million mt. Recent announcements concerning smelter closures and limited new capacity coming on stream is expected to improve the supply-demand balance in 2012. We estimate a demand growth of about 3-5 percent in 2012 in the world outside China. However, market sentiment continues to be influenced by significant economic uncertainty.
In China annualized consumption amounted to 19.3 million mt in the fourth quarter, a decline compared to the third quarter and the historically high levels in the second quarter. The primary aluminium market in China is believed to have been largely balanced for 2011 and is expected to remain so in 2012.
LME stocks increased from 4.6 million mt in the third quarter to 5.0 million mt in the fourth quarter. A large portion of the metal in warehouses continues to be owned by several large financial investors.
The negative trend in demand for metal products (extrusion ingot, sheet ingot, primary foundry alloys and wire rod) in Europe has continued during the last quarter of 2011. Demand in Germany and the Benelux countries continues to be stronger than most countries in Southern Europe.
European demand for rolled products decreased in the fourth quarter of 2011 compared to the previous quarter due to seasonality and a weakening in underlying demand.
Demand in the automotive segment declined in the fourth quarter influenced by lower vehicle production rates in Europe. However, demand for European cars continues to grow in China providing support for the market. Building and construction demand was seasonally lower in the fourth quarter with no signs of recovery in Southern Europe and a high level of caution in general. Consumption of aluminium foil declined due to a weaker packaging segment. Demand in the beverage can segment was seasonally lower, however, underlying demand remained healthy. A sharp drop in demand in the general engineering segment was mainly driven by destocking activities at distributors and slightly weaker industrial demand.
Demand for rolled products is expected to be seasonally higher in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the previous quarter however most markets are expected to remain weak.
Compared to the third quarter, European demand for extruded aluminium products weakened in the fourth quarter on top of seasonal declines, and was also lower than the same quarter of 2010. Demand remained weak within the building and construction sector and in Southern Europe in particular. Margins continued to be under pressure in Europe in general.
Demand for extruded products in North America was seasonally lower compared with the third quarter of 2011, but somewhat higher than the fourth quarter of 2010, supported by improved demand within the transport and automotive segments. Imports into the US have fallen significantly compared to the fourth quarter of 2010 as a result of duties on Chinese products. Demand in South America was stable compared to the previous quarter, but increased compared to the fourth quarter of last year, with positive developments for all segments.
Demand in the precision tubing market segment continued to be strong compared to the third quarter of 2011, driven by demand for premium cars, however demand weakened in Europe and Brazil compared to the fourth quarter of 2010.
A further decline in demand is expected in the European extrusion and building systems markets in the first quarter of 2012, driven by the weak economic developments, especially in Southern Europe. In North America, extrusion demand is expected to increase slightly. The outlook for South America remains positive for all major market segments, with growth forecasted for 2012. Automotive production in Europe is expected to decline in the first quarter due to reduced demand for cars in Europe, while outlook is more positive in North America and China.
Nordic electricity spot prices started the quarter at very low levels due to high inflows into reservoirs at close to full capacity. Prices increased somewhat as water levels stabilized, however, the significantly improved hydrological balance, declining coal and CO2 prices combined with mild weather put pressure on prices towards the end of the quarter.
Water reservoir levels in Norway were 80 percent of full capacity by the end of 2011, which is 11 percentage point above normal and at the highest level experienced since 1990. Snow accumulations were estimated at 20 percent above normal. In southern Norway, snow accumulation is estimated at 50 percent above normal, resulting in further pressure on NO2 and NO5 spot prices.
The strong hydrological situation is expected to limit the potential upside in Nordic spot prices during the winter season.
Additional factors impacting Hydro
Hydro has sold forward around 85 percent of its expected primary aluminium production for the first quarter of 2012 at a price level of around USD 2 150 per mt. This excludes expected volumes from Qatalum. Hydro’s hedge of aluminium price exposure within its Bauxite Alumina operations expired at the end of 2011.
Hydro’s water reservoirs remain well above normal in the fourth quarter even with high production, and snow reservoirs increased significantly. As a result, production is expected to be high through the first quarter of 2012.
There continues to be significant uncertainty regarding global economic developments impacting the aluminium industry in general. Market developments in Southern Europe in particular are expected to remain weak.
Underlying EBIT for Bauxite Alumina decreased compared to the third quarter primarily due to lower realized alumina prices.
Underlying EBIT for Primary Metal declined compared to the third quarter, impacted by lower prices and lower sales volumes.
Lower realized aluminium prices, lower premiums and lower sales volumes had a negative effect on underlying results totalling about NOK 300 million for the quarter. Lower alumina and power costs together with certain non-recurring items made a positive contribution. Our USD 300 per mt cost improvement program was on track delivering cumulative savings of USD 200 per mt by the end of 2011.
Production volumes increased compared to the third quarter mainly due to additional volumes from Qatalum which reached full production capacity on September 21.
Underlying results for Qatalum declined mainly due to lower realized aluminium prices.
Metal Markets incurred an underlying loss in the fourth quarter due to significant negative currency effects. Underlying EBIT excluding currency effects, declined somewhat, mainly influenced by lower results from sourcing and trading activities.
Total metal product sales excluding ingot trading was seasonally lower in the fourth quarter and also impacted by weaker demand. Sales of third party products increased mainly due to increased production volumes from Qatalum.
Underlying EBIT for Rolled Products fell during the quarter compared with the third quarter mainly due to seasonally lower sales volumes and weakening market demand. Operating costs declined in absolute terms due to lower personnel and maintenance costs, however, cost per mt increased due to the lower sales volumes.
Extruded Products incurred an underlying loss in the fourth quarter, a significant decline compared with the third quarter, due to lower sales volumes and reduced margins partly offset by a decline in operating costs.
Seasonally lower sales volumes for our European extrusion operations were further impacted by weaker demand in general. Demand remained weak for building systems with no improvement compared to the third quarter which was impacted by seasonal declines. Volumes were seasonally lower in North America and stable in South America. Developments for precision tubing were impacted by lower demand in China, Brazil and Europe.
Operating costs declined during the quarter as production shifts were taken out in line with declining volumes, however cost per mt increased due to the lower volumes. Savings relating to ongoing initiatives to reduce costs and restructure operations for our building systems operations were more than offset by effects of the continuing market decline. Further rationalization measures were implemented in the fourth quarter and we have targeted EUR 40 million of total annual cost improvements within our building systems operations by the end of 2012.
Underlying results for Energy declined in the fourth quarter compared to the previous quarter due to reduced net spot volumes, resulting from slightly lower production, seasonally higher concession power sales and lower off-take from external sourcing contracts in Norway.
Other and eliminations
Eliminations comprises mainly unrealized gains and losses on inventories purchased from group companies which fluctuates with product flows, volumes and margin developments throughout Hydro’s value chain.
Items excluded from underlying EBIT and net income
To provide a better understanding of Hydro’s underlying performance, the items in the table below have been excluded from EBIT and net income.
Items excluded from underlying EBIT are comprised mainly of unrealized gains and losses on certain derivatives, impairment and rationalization charges, effects of disposals of businesses and operating assets, as well as other items that are of a special nature or are not expected to be incurred on an ongoing basis.
Net financial expense amounted to a negative NOK 26 million in the fourth quarter compared with a negative NOK 1,363 million in the previous quarter.
The net currency loss of NOK 28 million for the fourth quarter was influenced by developments in the exchange rate between the US dollar compared with the Norwegian krone, Brazilian real and Euro which were largely offsetting. Net currency gains related to intercompany financial balances amounted NOK 130 million in the fourth quarter.
For the full year 2011 income tax expense was 21 percent of pre-tax income. The low tax rate results from tax-free gains on the sales of the shareholding in SKS Produksjon and Alpart, and the tax-free gain from the revaluation of Hydro’s previous ownership interests in Alunorte and the CAP recognized in the first quarter. The effect was somewhat offset by impairment charges having no tax effect and the write down of deferred tax assets recognized in the fourth quarter.
Pro forma information
Underlying EBIT for Bauxite Alumina decreased compared to the third quarter primarily due to lower alumina prices driven by the fall in LME.
Bauxite production reached record volumes in the fourth quarter due to improved operational stability, while alumina production at Alunorte declined slightly, impacted by operational issues affecting plant availability.
Realized alumina prices declined having a negative impact on underlying EBIT for the quarter.
Underlying results from our Commercial operations improved compared to third quarter, mainly as a result of good margins on our contract portfolio.
Underlying EBIT improved substantially compared to pro forma underlying EBIT for the fourth quarter of 2010 impacted by higher realized aluminium prices and higher volumes.
Contact Rikard Lindqvist
Cellular +47 41751199
Contact Halvor Molland
Cellular +47 92979797
Certain statements included within this announcement contain forward-looking information, including, without limitation, those relating to (a) forecasts, projections and estimates, (b) statements of management’s plans, objectives and strategies for Hydro, such as planned expansions, investments or other projects, (c) targeted production volumes and costs, capacities or rates, start-up costs, cost reductions and profit objectives, (d) various expectations about future developments in Hydro’s markets, particularly prices, supply and demand and competition, (e) results of operations, (f) margins, (g) growth rates, (h) risk management, as well as (i) statements preceded by “expected”, “scheduled”, “targeted”, “planned”, “proposed”, “intended” or similar statements.
Although we believe that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are reasonable, these forward-looking statements are based on a number of assumptions and forecasts that, by their nature, involve risk and uncertainty. Various factors could cause our actual results to differ materially from those projected in a forward-looking statement or affect the extent to which a particular projection is realized. Factors that could cause these differences include, but are not limited to: our continued ability to reposition and restructure our upstream and downstream aluminium business; changes in availability and cost of energy and raw materials; global supply and demand for aluminium and aluminium products; world economic growth, including rates of inflation and industrial production; changes in the relative value of currencies and the value of commodity contracts; trends in Hydro’s key markets and competition; and legislative, regulatory and political factors.
No assurance can be given that such expectations will prove to have been correct. Hydro disclaims any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
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