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UPDATE 1-Century Aluminum net up, evaluating new Iceland smelter

*Net income of 57 cents per share

*Excluding items, EPS was $1.31

*Revenue rose 22 percent to $552.2 million

*Stopped making any new capital commitments

LOS ANGELES, Oct 21 (Reuters) - Century Aluminum Co CENX.O reported on Tuesday a sharp rise in third-quarter profit due to higher aluminum shipments, but said it had stopped making any new capital commitments due to the global financial crisis.

Net earnings were $37 million, or 57 cents per share, compared with $7.5 million, or 17 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago, the Monterey, California-based company said.

Excluding a $3.3 million tax benefit and a $50.4 million charge for mark-to-market adjustments on forward contracts, the company earned $1.31 per share. Analysts on average were expecting earnings of $1.49 per share.

Revenue rose 22 percent to $552.2 million from $454.4 million as the expansion of a facility in Iceland helped boost shipments. Analysts were expecting revenue of $549.39 million, according to Reuters Estimates.

This month, Merrill Lynch downgraded Century Aluminum’s investment rating to underperform, citing weak aluminum pricing, high inventories and lack of catalysts to drive the aluminum price higher.

In a statement, the company said it was assessing the status of a smelter under construction in Helguvik, Iceland.

“We have ceased making any new capital commitments and are reducing project spending,” said Century Aluminum Chief Executive Logan Kruger, adding that the company would “soberly evaluate the feasibility of all elements of the project during the near term.”

Two weeks ago, the top U.S. aluminum producer, Alcoa Inc AA.N reported its third-quarter profit fell on softening demand, higher costs and sharply lower prices for aluminum. The price of the metal dropped 28 percent during the quarter, from $3,375 per tonne on July 1 to $2,415 on Sept 30.

Shares of Century Aluminum, which hit a 52-week high of $80.52 on May 19, closed down 8.5 percent to $13.93 Tuesday on the Nasdaq. The stock fell 2 percent to $13.61 in extended trading after posting its results. (Reporting by Steve James and Nichola Groom; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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