Aluminum producers have been under pressure to cut expenses as prices languish below costs due to a big global surplus. Rio Tinto plc (LON: RIO), one of the world's top mining companies, has sold off numerous aluminum assets, following its $38 billion takeover of Alcan in 2007. However, a new shift in auto manufacturing-where more aluminum is integrated into the crafting of car bodies-may bode well for buyers in the space.
Dutch-owned Constellium NV (NYSE: CSTM) and Tokyo-based UACJ Corp. (TYO: 5741) announced in late January that the aluminum products makers will invest about $150 million to develop a U.S. production facility for aluminum sheet for car bodies, as part of a new joint venture. Also in January, Novelis Inc., the largest producer of aluminum rolled products, put forward plans to expand its global automotive capacity. The move includes spending $205 million to boost its global aluminium sheet capacity by 240,000 tons per year, after investing nearly $550 million for the cause in the previous two years. Atlanta-based Novelis manufactured products end up in automobiles, beverage cans and flat-screen televisions.