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Alcoa Inc (AA), General Electric Company (GE): Aluminum Giant Says Buy Airplanes

Alcoa Inc (NYSE:AA)

Alcoa Inc (NYSE:AA) just announced earnings that beat Wall Street’s pretty low expectations. While solidifying demand is good for Alcoa, the company expects notable growth from the aerospace industry. That suggests solid outlooks for General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) and The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA).

A Tough Market

Alcoa Inc (NYSE:AA) is one of the largest aluminum companies in the world. It’s been a rough business since the housing market burst and the associated 2007 to 2009 recession. The company’s revenues peaked in 2007 at $30.7 billion and fell to $18.4 billion by 2009. Earnings went from almost $3 a share to a loss of about $1.25 over that span.

Although the top- and bottom-lines have picked up since, at around $23.5 billion and just under $0.20 a share, respectively, 2012’s performance remains well below peak levels and below 2011’s levels. Alcoa Inc (NYSE:AA) is still working through a tough market. That said, it is taking the right steps by streamlining its business, reducing costs and shuttering unneeded capacity. And that it has been able to remain profitable in a difficult industry environment speaks to its strength as a company.

Alcoa Inc (NYSE:AA) made headlines recently for being downgraded to junk status by Moody’s. That said, it was able to pare its debt in the second quarter by over half a billion dollars. That leaves long-term debt at about a third of the capital structure as of June, not an unreasonable level for a major manufacturing company that’s still making money in a weak market.

Although the price to earnings ratio is unrealistically high at around 35, that’s based on a market floundering through the trough of a cycle. Alcoa Inc (NYSE:AA) is a compelling way for investors to get exposure to the aluminum market before it starts to turn higher.

Looking Up

And, according to Alcoa Inc (NYSE:AA), demand for end products is starting to improve even though there remains too much supply on the metals side of the business. One area doing particularly well is aerospace, where management expects “9% to 10% global growth for this year.” Management also noted that “the backlog for Airbus and The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA) now makes up 9,900 planes, and that equals eight years of production.”

Alcoa is one way to play this, but so, too, is an investment in Boeing. The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA) and Airbus have an effective duopoly in the large commercial aircraft space.

Although an eight year backlog is impressive, Mario Gabelli recently noted that “Over the next 20 years, the global passenger aircraft fleet is projected to double…and roughly 34,000 new aircrafts will be needed for industry growth and replacement.”

The nature of The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA) products can leave the top- and bottom-lines a bit choppy. However, sales have increased from about $64 billion to almost $81.7 billion over the last three years. Earnings were nearly $4.50 a share in 2010 and about $5.10 last year, down from almost $5.35 in 2011.

The shares are trading near all-time highs and have a PE of around 20. That’s a little steep, but with such a solid outlook for the industry, growth investors should still find the stock compelling.

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