The leaders of Noranda Aluminum Holding have their work cut out for them as they attempt to grow the Franklin-based company's shareholder equity and lift a share price that has lost more than 90 percent of its value (Ticker: NOR) over the past year. A big reason for that is that the global aluminum sector is struggling mightily under the weight of overproduction, which has pushed down prices by 25 percent since last September. China's overinvestment has played a huge role, but the problem isn't limited to the People's Republic.
More than 10 percent of smelting capacity outside of China, or 3.5 million tonnes of production, is running in the red with a combined LME and U.S. premium of $1,800 per tonne, according to Wood Mackenzie data from second-quarter results. On Friday, three-month aluminum was at $1,621, with a U.S. premium of $175 a tonne.
SEE ALSO: Our past coverage of Noranda
Shareholders of Noranda Aluminum Holding on Monday voted overwhelmingly to approve a 1-for-7 reverse stock split, part of the company's plan to get back in the good graces of the New York Stock Exchange's listing standards panel. Noranda shares (Ticker: NOR) should this morning begin trading around $2.60. Its leaders also must still find ways to boost the Franklin-based company's shareholder's equity above $50 million.
Moody's Investors Service has cut its overall debt rating for Noranda Aluminum Holding to Caa1 from B3 — that translates to "poor and subject to very high credit risk" from "speculative and high risk" — and changed its outlook for the Franklin-based company to negative from stable. Analysts Carol Cowan and Brian Oak write that Noranda will see prices for its products continue to fall for the next several quarters even as some of its operating costs climb. They say there are a lot of hurdles to overcome for Noranda and don't expect to revisit their rating for at least a year.
The negative outlook incorporates our expectation that metrics will deteriorate further in the second half of 2015 and into 2016 as the company's operating results are impacted by the falling aluminum prices and premiums. It also captures the possibility that, given the weak market fundamentals, aluminum pricing will remain suppressed over the intermediate term. The outlook also reflects the uncertainty that Noranda is able to successfully improve the reliability of its smelter operations, achieve its stated cost objectives, and complete its remaining capital projects while maintaining adequate liquidity.
The New York Stock Exchange's listings regulators have told Noranda Aluminum executives that they need to submit a plan to get the Franklin-based company's market value and shareholder equity back above $50 million. Late last month, the NYSE also told Noranda to get its stock price above $1, something the company plans to do via reverse split. Unless the global aluminum market rebounds soon and lifts Noranda's fortunes, this demand could be harder to meet.
Check out more information about the NYSE's latest letter here.
Noranda Aluminum Holding President and CEO Kip Smith on Wednesday said his team is working around the effects of a major explosion at its New Madrid, Missouri, plant. The accident — apparently caused by molten aluminum coming into contact with water — is limiting the production of extrusion billet, a cylindrical aluminum product. Relatedly, the molten aluminum that would still be going toward that product is being redirected to other lines.
Read the company's full statement here.
Five workers sustained minor injuries Tuesday at Noranda Aluminum Holding's large manufacturing complex in Southeast Missouri when an explosion destroyed an area that manufactures material for use in construction and automotive assembly. The blast took place early in the afternoon and reportedly knocked out most of the wall of the cast house, where molten aluminum is cast into shapes.
In an email to the Southeast Missourian, Noranda spokesman Mark Christian said local emergency personnel as well as Noranda's on-site emergency response team responded to the explosion. Injuries appeared to be limited to dust irritation, smoke inhalation and noncritical abrasions, he said. All affected employees were released from medical care, with many returning to work Tuesday, Christian wrote.
Shares of Noranda (Ticker: NOR) fell more than 7 percent Tuesday to about 47 cents, adding to a slide that has seen them lose 85 percent of their value over the past three months. The company and its competitors have been struggling with low end prices for their products and Noranda execs two weeks ago said they had put on hold plans to ramp up production in Missouri. The company's board in June voted to explore strategic alternatives.
SEE ALSO: A Reuters story that includes a trader's comments about the possible price impact of the blast
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