* Alcoa forecasts global aluminum deficit of 600,000 tonnes
* China is expected to run a 2012 deficit of about 850,000
* About 1.1 tonnes of China's inefficient capacity will
likely close "pretty soon"
(Adds detail, background, CEO quotes from quarterly conference
call, updates throughout)
By Josephine Mason and Carole Vaporean
NEW YORK, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Alcoa Inc Chairman
and Chief Executive Klaus Kleinfeld expects the global aluminum
market to turn into a deficit this year, as biggest consumer
China closes inefficient capacity even though demand remains
At a conservative estimate, the global deficit will be some
600,000 tonnes, he told analysts on a conference call following
the release of the aluminum giant's fourth-quarter results.
"Our assumption for the 600,000 tonne deficit in the primary
market, (is based on) our assumption that 1.1 million of China's
5.7 million tonnes of unprofitable capacity will be taken
offline," the executive told analysts.
Alcoa estimates China's 2012 aluminum deficit will total
850,000 tonnes, whereas the rest of the world's supply/demand
balance will result in a 250,000 tonne net surplus, for a global
deficit of 600,000 tonnes.
He forecast Chinese aluminum demand will grow 12 percent
this year, while the Asian nation's GDP is expected to rise
between 8 and 9 percent and 8.5 percent next year.
In 2011, China's aluminum consumption grew by 15 percent.
China consumes over 45 percent of global aluminum output.
Even with a brisk economic pace, China's local aluminum
industry faces structural problems, including high costs as
smelters have to import raw materials, energy constraints and
environmental issues with many of its smelters fired by coal.
That means, one-third of Chinese production, or as much as
5.7 million tonnes per year of output, is loss making, he said,
stressing that Alcoa's estimates were made on cash basis and do
not include non-cash items like depreciation.
"In the end, the pain level comes when you see cash flowing
out the door and 5.7 million tonnes of Chinese production is
cash negative," the executive said.
Specifically, Henan province runs 280,000 tonnes of capacity
that would likely close soon because of drought conditions there
that have impacted hydro power plants.
Another 630,000 tonnes would shut "pretty soon" based on a
report by China's economic information center, with another
200,000 tonnes coming offline that Kleinfled said he had
discussed previously where closures were already "in progress."
Citing old technology at inefficient smelters, he said China
may close another 1.2 milllion tonnes of capacity assuming the
metal price remains around current low levels.
"Anybody who would care about using resources wisely would
take these offline sooner rather than later," the CEO said.
If China takes any of this next tranche of smelters offline,
Alcoa's deficit prediction would increase and metal prices would
benefit, the aluminum chief said.
Even if the aluminum price firms, he said, "that does not
mean everything in China is suddenly rosy."
"The Chinese aluminum industry has a structural problem that
will not go away and that will lead to structural consequences
independent of where the metal prices is, mainly how to use the
energy in a country that is not energy rich."
He gave a generally positive assessment of the overall
market, forecasting global aluminum demand will rise 7 percent
this year and reiterating global demand should double by 2020.
Alcoa estimated a 10 percent global growth pace for 2011.
Excluding China, it forecasts 2012 demand growth of 4 percent.
"We do see an air of confidence returning to the economy,"
he said in an earlier interview on CNBC TV, referring to rising
U.S. consumer confidence and manufacturing data and falling bond
yields in Europe.
Even so, 2011 was a "bumpy" ride with "massive headwinds",
he said, blaming the Pittsburgh-based aluminum producer's
fourth-quarter loss on charges for cutting back production and
softer market conditions.
(Reporting By Josephine Mason and Carole Vaporean; Editing by
David Gregorio, Bob Burgdorfer and Bernard Orr)
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