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October 28, 2009

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Chalco returns to profit in Q3

ALUMINUM Corp of China Ltd, the world's most valuable aluminium maker, returned to profit after three quarterly losses, and analysts said surging demand should keep it profitable in 2010.

Rival Alcoa Inc surprised Wall Street earlier this month with its first profit in a year, a product of cost cutting and higher aluminium prices.

"We did believe Chalco would break even in the third quarter, and the results are in line with our expectations," said Li Xiao, analyst at Macquarie Research, who said he expected the company to make a profit in 2010.

Chalco, as China's top alumina and aluminium producer is known, said it posted a July-September net profit of 21.27 million yuan (US$3.11 million), down 88 percent from a restated profit of 173 million yuan a year earlier, based on Chinese accounting standards.

The profit was in line with Deutsche Bank's forecast of a break-even or slightly profitable third quarter.

Total operating revenue fell about 11 percent in the three-month period to 17.08 billion yuan, Chalco said.

For the first nine months of the year, Chalco made a loss of 3.5 billion yuan compared with a profit of 2.57 billion yuan a year ago.

Cost cutting and higher selling prices should lift Chalco's net profit to 1.24 billion yuan in the second half, CLSA analyst Andrew Driscoll said. Driscoll forecast Chalco would make a profit of 3 billion yuan in 2010.

Accelerating economic growth in China and a recovery in the global market should continue to boost demand for aluminium, which is widely used in transport and packaging.

Alumina prices rose 9 percent in the third quarter from the second, while Shanghai Futures Exchange aluminium prices were up 10 percent.

China's annual gross domestic product growth quickened to 8.9 percent in the third quarter, and industry output rose 12 to 14 percent in each of the past three months.

Alcoa said it expected 11 percent demand growth in the aluminium market in the second half, not including replenishment of very low inventory levels.

The upside for aluminium prices could be capped, however, as a number of producers that cut output during the depths of the global economic downturn are now ready to fire up their smelters once again.


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