Alcoa's CEO gets no respect at all

Kleinfeld is the Rodney Dangerfield of chief executives -- something undeserved by this impressive name.

By Jim Cramer Apr 9, 2013 9:00AM

thestreet logoStephen Morton Bloomberg via Getty ImagesWhy isn't the stock doing as well as the company? That's pretty much how you feel after watching and listening to Alcoa (AA) CEO Klaus Kleinfeld talk about the company's progress on Monday night's conference call about its first quarter upside surprise -- and it was an upside surprise.


Here's a maker of one of the most versatile materials in the world, aluminum, forecasting a 7% growth rate for its products and saying that there is -- for the first time in ages -- a tightening of supply and demand. This company had previously been a hapless maker of a commodity with some downstream refined product, and it's become an outfit for which 70% of profit comes from proprietary materials developed specifically for the end user. This shift away from high-cost commodity producer, with only 25% of its profits coming from proprietary products, occurred in 10 years.


Kleinfeld said there's been no cessation of demand, and that business is still excellent in China. Alcoa is a company that sells into the red-hot aerospace industry, one that is growing at a 9%-to-10% clip, except for the big birds, which are growing at about 12% and are currently enjoying a backlog of 9400 planes. Alcoa is now a huge amount parts maker for large planes, $3.3 million to $3.8 million, in both the largest Boeing (BA) and Airbus jets.

Aluminum's other big uses -- autos, construction and cans -- are all seeing an uptick at Alcoa. Only trucks are seeing some diminution. The company has $1.6 billion in cash, and is predicting a nice up year with positive free cash flow virtually guaranteed.


Yet what happens when it reports an upside surprise, its best number in two years?


It gets hammered.


Right in front of your eyes. Despite the congratulations on the call. Despite the recognition of the incredible improvement in this business. Despite the stewardship through a difficult Europe.

Nothing seems to matter.

After this quarter I am convinced, now more than ever, that Alcoa is on track for a good year. But until it actually has one, this might not matter. The headwinds against the stock are that strong. The worries about its debt picture, despite its cash position, are that deep -- deep enough that an analyst on the call still felt compelled to ask if Alcoa needs to issue equity in order to fix its balance sheet and pay the debt off that comes due this year.

Klaus Kleinfeld is the Rodney Dangerfield of CEOs. He does not get the respect he so very much deserves. One day it will happen. It just isn't happening now. I think it is a mistake that it isn't. But no judgment could be less consequential than mine about this vastly transformed company and its tremendous book of business.


One day that judgment will gain clout, and the stock will go back to where it was a couple of years ago -- when the company was not doing as well as it is now.


But not yet. Unlike so many other stocks, moreover, Alcoa is not paying you to wait, given that meager 1.4% dividend yield. Let's just hope, for Alcoa's sake, that it won't be because of a merely rising yield, but because of an increased payout. Maybe that's the only way for Kleinfeld to get respect and for his company's stock to reach the heights it deserves.




Jim Cramer is a co-founder of TheStreet and contributes daily market commentary to the financial news network's sites. Follow his trades for Action Alerts PLUS, which Cramer co-manages as a charitable trust and has no positions in stocks mentioned.   



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Apr 9, 2013 10:02AM
There's a couple of things here that Cramer failed to mention.

Revenues were down - $5.83 billion compared to $6.01 billion a year ago.  The street was looking for $5.91 billion, and they came up short.

Alcoa is trading at a relatively high P/E ratio of 20, while only offering a 1.4% dividend yield.  Compare this to another "wide barometer" stock like GE, who has a P/E less than 18 and a 3.3% dividend.

For me, the real news on Alcoa is that they continue to boost profits with less revenue.  This is a signal that demand still isn't there, a poor sign for the economy as a whole.  Up until now, shareholders have been appeased as companies penny-pinch their way to profits.  But they can't do this forever, sooner or later you have to increase sales.

Apr 9, 2013 10:58AM

"You imply alcoa has a lot of debt, and you wonder why stock prices are hammered?"


Every investor should be monitoring this. If a business platform has a lot of debt AND a lot of cash in offshore accounts, bet they also have defined Preferred Stock that maintains a priority right to the cash while YOU get the debt liquidation ahead of anything that might have gone to common stock holders. If anyone remotely believes this will end other than catastrophic, you are dead wrong. BTW... soda sales are way down. What sales there are probably accommodates fast food use and that comes in plastic containers. Retail aluminum use is way down. Better beers come in bottles.

Apr 9, 2013 9:55AM
One big use of aluminium is cans!!! ........... Wow, thanks for that useful information Bobo.
Apr 9, 2013 2:22PM
cramer has been pushing alcoa for 3 years now .....all the way from $19 down .....every time they announce something and the stock goes down he writes an article saying how great the ceo is and how the world is wrong and he is right and the stock is undervalued !!

I am starting to think kleinfeld is his grandpa or nephew or something !
Apr 9, 2013 4:43PM
I'm sure as CEO, even though he doesn't get the respect Cramer believes he deserves, his salary, perks, bonuses and granted stock options will keep him happy just fine.
Apr 9, 2013 2:03PM

The Dow is UP almost 90 points based on Alcoa "wowwing". But it hasn't. Those results are flat.


Banks have gone to a 8-year car loan (96 months) and Subprime lending criteria again. We all know where this is going... ready?

Apr 9, 2013 2:15PM
Nice little push to the upside this afternoon....Still almost 2 hours to go though....Be cautious....Scumbags can strike in a NY minute....They will never give up...More after the close.
Apr 9, 2013 10:09AM
Haven't we seen this opening before? Maybe just yesterday?...Futures up, opened in the green and manipulators start doing their thing early; groundhog day....Scumbags will never ever give up, remember that, they will always be there to cheat, steal and do their thing....Oh well, its very early, so many things can still happen today...More later.
Apr 9, 2013 9:36AM
you imply alcoa has a lot of debt, and you wonder why stock prices are hammered? 
Apr 9, 2013 2:23PM

as for ceos cramer took his street dot com from the 100's all the way down to 1.50 - 2 a share ...genius !

Aluminum is yesterdays metal ...
Apr 9, 2013 9:49AM
Steve that was the part you were supposed to ignore, it's all upside!!!!!!


Thanks, after Dagwood Bumstead and other similar strips, men don't a have chance.  I think there are more unrecognized heros than those recognized, and many break their pick trying but

go without credits.  Its past time for men to get credit for just putting bread on the table.  The

competition in the U.S. between men is overwhelming.  No wonder that many die before their spouses. 


Apr 9, 2013 10:10AM
Apr 9, 2013 5:16PM
Like we say, things here can change in a NY minute; at about 1530 hrs manipulators started to do their thing, we were able to hold but, 15 or 20 more minutes of trading and who knows how we would have ended....We will see if these crooks will try to continue their run tomorrow morning.
Apr 9, 2013 11:57AM
I guess Ken Lay wasn`t in this list.
Apr 9, 2013 11:33PM
You call that an increase!? I just bought penny stocks of INKA and they plummeted 1000% in one week. Would have never happened with a regular stock. And the best part the price is going up at an incredible speed. It is only 1.15
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