Is Alcoa Stock Worth $30? 3 Things You Need to Know

By Markets Fool.com

It's official: Alcoa (NYSE: AA) is independent.

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As you've probably heard by now, last week Alcoa spun off its value-added products division, Arconic (NYSE: ARNC), retaining its commodity bauxite and aluminum businesses as a sort of rump Alcoa. Investors reacted promptly to the division, selling off Arconic and bidding up Alcoa stock instead. By the time Alcoa shares opened for trading Monday morning, the stock was already up 12% since the split.

But where does Alcoa go from here, you ask? Turns out three analysts decided to initiate coverage of Alcoa stock, post-split, just this morning. Here's what they think you should know about the new and improved Alcoa.


Alcoa just went all-in on aluminum production. Image source: Getty Images.

1. Cowen likes, doesn't love, Alcoa

From least to most optimistic, we begin with Cowen & Co. (CAPS rating: 87.06) This morning, the analyst initiated coverage of Alcoa with a market perform rating (i.e., hold). On the one hand, Alcoa stock sells for only $26 a share today, and Cowen thinks it will rise to $29 -- which argues for optimism about Alcoa stock. However, as TheFly.com reports, Cowen is concerned that "aluminum market pressures" put Alcoa stock at risk, and it's not prepared to recommend buying the stock just yet.

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2. Morgan Stanley is easier to please

Morgan Stanley (CAPS rating: unrated) has no such compunctions about recommending Alcoa stock -- which is rather surprising. According to Morgan, investors are assuming that aluminum prices will fall over time, and assuming long-term price trends that are below Morgan's "base case commodity view." Morgan Stanley doesn't share these worries.

At the same time, it's interesting to note that Morgan Stanley only believes Alcoa stock is worth about $27 a share, which is $2 less value than Cowen ascribes to it. Nevertheless, where Cowen counsels caution, Morgan Stanley is climbing out on a limb and rating Alcoa overweight (i.e., buy).

3. Citi sees significant upside

Both these views dwindle in comparison to what Citigroup (CAPS rating: 93.99) has to say about Alcoa, though. The highest-rated analyst of the three surveyed so far, Citi is also assigning the highest price target to Alcoa stock -- $30 a share. According to the analyst, even if commodities enter a bear market, there is "relatively little downside" in Alcoa stock at its current price. On the other hand, a bull market for aluminum could provide "very significant upside" to Alcoa investors.

Really? Not just "significant," but "very significant"? Well, let's see about that...

The most important thing: Valuation

Here's what we know about Alcoa post-spinoff, according to the latest data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. First-half 2016 sales amounted to $4.45 billion, implying full-year sales of $8.9 billion. The company lost money on those sales, however, so a weaker commodity market (such as Cowen fears) would exacerbate those losses, whereas a stronger market (posited by Morgan) might eliminate them, and a very strong commodities market, such as Citi seems to be banking on, could even turn the company profitable again.

As far as the balance sheet goes, Alcoa has offloaded the bulk of its debt on Arconic, with the result that it now carries only $233 million in long-term debt. With $322 million in cash, the company has no net debt at all. (It does, however, have about $424 million in pension liabilities, which are a sort of long-term obligation, or debt.)

Valuation-wise, currently the stock carries a $4.6 billion market capitalization, or about 0.5 times sales, and an enterprise value even lower. Whether that's a bargain, though, depends largely on whether Alcoa can return itself to profitability. Currently, the consensus of all analysts who follow the stock is that this will not happen before 2018.

Only time will tell if they're right about that.

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Fool contributorRich Smithdoes not own shares of, nor is he short, any company named above. You can find him onMotley Fool CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handleTMFDitty, where he currently ranks No. 336 out of more than 75,000 rated members.

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