Economic downturn leads to first-quarter losses

Wednesday, 29. April 2009 07:30
Hydro had an underlying loss before financial items of NOK 493
million in the first quarter of 2009, down from an underlying EBIT of
NOK 868 million in the previous quarter. The results reflect the
deepening global economic downturn, with historically low aluminium
prices and a further fall in already weak downstream markets.

"We have been in the forefront in our industry in taking swift and
decisive action in response to the economic downturn. We do not see
any short or medium-term upturn in the market, and we will continue
to take necessary measures adjusting our operations and costs to the
challenging market situation," Hydro's President and CEO Svein
Richard Brandtzæg said.

"We will ensure that our competitive position will be strengthened
through the measures we are now taking in all business areas and
throughout staff and support functions," Brandtzæg added.

Hydro decided during the quarter to temporarily shut down the oldest
production line at its Sunndal smelter facility in Norway, which has
an annual production capacity of 100,000 mt per year. This will bring
total upstream capacity curtailments to about 500,000 mt a year, or
close to 30 percent of production in 2008.

Earlier announced curtailments include the Neuss smelter, 50 percent
of the part-owned Søral smelter, 10 percent of production at Slovalco
and the permanent closure of the Søderberg line in Karmøy. Around 60
percent of the announced curtailments had been completed by the end
of the first quarter, with the remaining due to be closed during the
second quarter.

Hydro also announced a temporary shut down of its 35-percent-owned
Alpart alumina refinery in Jamaica, with a total production of
1,650,000 mt alumina per year, which is expected to be fully closed
by mid-May. The company's program to reduce costs and manning
throughout its downstream operations progressed according to plan and
provided a significant contribution in the first quarter.

"Qatalum was 73 percent complete at the end of the quarter and on
schedule for start-up at the turn of the year. Once operational,
Qatalum will be a solid foundation for Hydro as a competitive metal
supplier," Brandtzæg said.

Aluminium Metal delivered an underlying loss of NOK 476 million in a
quarter strongly affected by the sharp fall in global aluminium
prices. Both fixed and variable costs related to the production of
primary aluminium declined as capacity curtailments started to affect
operating costs and key raw material prices fell. Results in Bauxite
and Alumina fell sharply due to lower realized alumina prices, and
Commercial Products continued to be impacted by weak sales volumes
and low production in Hydro's remelters.

Aluminium Products incurred an underlying loss of NOK 257 million in
the first quarter due to a further market deterioration from already
depressed levels, resulting in sales volumes dropping further from
the previous quarter and margins coming under increased pressure.
Significant cost reductions only partly offset the market effects.

Energy had an underlying EBIT of NOK 416 million, down from the
record results of the previous quarter. Spot prices declined from the
exceptionally high level in the fourth quarter of 2008. Power
production declined, but was seasonally high for the quarter.

Net cash used in operating activities was NOK 1.1 billion for the
quarter, compared with net cash provided by operating activities of
NOK 2.9 billion in the previous quarter. Hydro had a net cash
position amounting to NOK 1.7 billion at the end of the quarter.

Hydro had stand-by credit facilities of NOK 12.7 billion at the
beginning of the year, and further strengthened its financial
position by securing new financing during the first quarter,
including a new EUR 750 million syndicated three-year revolving
credit facility. The company also issued NOK 1 billion in commercial
paper during the quarter with a six month maturity.


Key financial %
information First Fourth % change First change
quarter quarter prior quarter prior Year
NOK million, 2009 2008 quarter 2008 year 2008
except per share quarter
data

Revenue 16,854 21,368 (21) % 21,529 (22) % 88,643

Earnings before >(100)
financial items (1,598) (3,106) 49 % 1,179 % 1,194
and tax (EBIT)
Items excluded
from underlying 1,105 3,975 853 4,815
EBIT
Underlying
earnings before (493) 868 >(100) % 2,032 >(100) 6,009
financial items %
and tax (EBIT)

Underlying
earnings before
financial items
and tax (EBIT) :
Aluminium Metal (476) 435 >(100) % 1,255 >(100) 3,575
%
Aluminium (257) (239) (7) % 370 >(100) 988
Products %
Energy 416 592 (30) % 399 4 % 1,736
Corporate, other (176) 81 >(100) % 8 >(100) (290)
and eliminations %
Underlying
earnings before (493) 868 >(100) % 2,032 >(100) 6,009
financial items %
and tax (EBIT)

Income (loss) >(100)
from continuing (280) (5,845) 95 % 1,443 % (3,267)
operations

Underlying income
(loss) from (480) (184) >(100) % 1,376 >(100) 3,579
continuing %
operations

Earnings per
share from (0.29) (4.99) 94 % 1.21 >(100) (3.04)
continuing %
operations

Underlying
earnings per >(100)
share from (0.45) (0.29) (54) % 1.15 % 2.62
continuing
operations

Financial data:
Investments 685 2,749 (75) % 2,267 (70) % 9,012
Adjusted net >(100)
interest-bearing (18,839) (15,440) (22) % 163 % (15,440)
debt


Operating
statistics

Realized
aluminium price 1,996 2,654 (25) % 2,450 (19) % 2,638
LME (USD/mt)
Realized
aluminium price 13,393 16,904 (21) % 13,354 - 14,724
LME (NOK/mt)
Primary aluminium 397 442 (10) % 433 (8) % 1,750
production (kmt)
Rolled Products
sales volumes to 191 213 (10) % 253 (24) % 965
external market
(kmt)
Extrusion sales
volumes to 96 103 (7) % 130 (26) % 488
external market
(kmt)
Automotive sales
volumes to 17 18 (2) % 31 (43) % 105
external market
(kmt)
Power production 2,477 2,813 (12) % 2,850 (13) % 11,361
(GWh)

Reported EBIT and income from continuing operations
Reported EBIT for Hydro amounted to a loss of NOK 1,598 million for
the first quarter including charges of roughly NOK 1,100 million
comprised of negative metal effects of NOK 660 million,
rationalization charges and closure costs of NOK 300 million and net
unrealized derivative losses of about NOK 130 million. Reported EBIT
amounted to a loss of NOK 3,106 million for the fourth quarter of
2008 including charges of roughly NOK 3,980 million, comprised of
impairment losses of NOK 2,150 million, write-downs of roughly NOK
300 million relating to our minority interests in solar businesses,
net unrealized derivative losses of about NOK 770 million and other
net negative effects of roughly NOK 760 million.

Reported Loss from continuing operations amounted to NOK 280 million
in the first quarter including net foreign exchange gains of about
NOK 1,480 million mainly relating to intercompany balances
denominated in Euro. These gains have no cash effect and are offset
in equity by translation of the corresponding subsidiaries during
consolidation. Reported Loss from continuing operations amounted to
NOK 5,845 million in the fourth quarter including net foreign
exchange losses of NOK 4,629 million. Approximately half of the
losses related mainly to Hydro's US dollar hedging program. The
remainder related to losses on intercompany balances denominated in
Euro.

Market developments and outlook
The severe downturn in the global economy has led to a continued
decline in demand for aluminium following a sharp fall in demand in
the previous quarter and rapidly increasing inventory levels. Prices
started the quarter at USD 1,536 per mt and closed at USD 1,405 per
mt. At such levels, prices are lower than the cash cost of a
substantial portion of global smelter production. In response,
announced capacity curtailments have reached a global level of 3.4
million mt annually excluding China.

The market for metal products (extrusion ingot, sheet ingot, foundry
alloys and wire rod) in Europe and North America has continued to
decline following the dramatic weakening of these markets in the
previous quarter. All major end-use markets have been impacted
including automotive, building and general engineering.

Aluminium prices are expected to remain low in the medium-term, but
forward visibility continues to be limited and there is significant
uncertainty regarding developments. There are indications that the
rate of increase in LME inventories is slowing as announced
curtailments are put into effect. No substantial improvement in
demand for metal products is expected in the coming months and there
continues to be significant uncertainty regarding the timing of an
eventual recovery.

Outlook for Hydro
Prices of key raw materials used in the production of primary metal
have fallen in the past several months and Hydro has taken active
steps to capitalize on this development. We expect a more substantial
impact from the price declines in future quarters. Measures to
significantly reduce costs and manning throughout our downstream
activities are continuing which will enable us to partly mitigate the
effects of the significantly lower market demand as the on-going
recession in Europe and the US develops.

Hydro's water and snow reservoirs were lower than normal at the end
of the first quarter, and considerably lower than the corresponding
periods in 2008 and 2007. As a result, power production and financial
results for Energy are expected to be significantly lower in the
second quarter of 2009 compared to previous quarters.

During a maintenance shutdown in March, Hydro detected serious damage
in the Suldal I power station at the Røldal-Suldal hydroelectric
facility in Norway. As a result, Hydro's power production in 2009,
and in particular in the second quarter, will be negatively impacted.
The cost of repair and effects of the business interruption are
covered by insurance, however, offsetting effects of the
reimbursement will likely occur in later quarters than the negative
effects of production losses.

At the end of first quarter, Hydro had sold 87 percent of its primary
aluminium production for the second quarter of 2009 forward and
expects to realize an average price of USD 1,426 per mt. Hydro
expects a continued weak result in the second quarter of 2009.

In fourth quarter 2008 and first quarter 2009 Hydro made provisions
for future rationalization and closure costs relating to the plant
shut-downs of roughly NOK 400 million in total. These are reported as
items excluded from underlying EBIT and will mainly have cash effects
in future quarters. If it becomes necessary to permanently close
plants that have been curtailed on a temporary basis, additional
substantial closure costs would be necessary.

Hydro is in process of reviewing the size and structure of its
administrative staff functions which are expected to result in
reduced manning levels with corresponding rationalization costs in
the coming quarters.

Our business activities expose us to the risk that one or more
counterparties may default on their obligations, resulting in direct
financial loss, an unexpected increase in market exposure or higher
operating costs. The present weak and deteriorating economic
conditions, combined with challenging financial markets, increase the
risk of defaulting counterparties. So far we have not experienced any
significant defaults and are carefully monitoring the situation.

Aluminium Metal
Aluminium Metal delivered an underlying loss of NOK 476 million for
the quarter, a substantial decline from underlying EBIT of NOK 435
million in the previous quarter which included inventory write-downs
amounting to NOK 700 million. Underlying results for the first
quarter included inventory write-downs of about NOK 485 million as
LME prices remain below our cost of production. The charge for the
quarter, however, was more than offset by the effect of lower costs
of goods sold due to the earlier write-downs, amounting to a net
positive impact of about NOK 110 million.

Underlying EBIT for Primary Aluminium declined for the quarter
heavily impacted by the sharp decline in LME prices, lower product
premiums and lower sales of casthouse products. Realized LME prices
declined significantly measured in both US dollars and Norwegian
kroner impacting underlying EBIT by roughly NOK 1,500 million. Due to
lower future sales volumes as a result of production curtailments,
Hydro decided to realize a portion of hedge contracts (LME) resulting
in a gain of approximately NOK 160 million. Fixed and variable costs
were lower for the quarter having a positive influence on underlying
results of roughly NOK 370 million and NOK 500 million respectively.
Production declined about 45,000 mt in the first quarter as a result
of capacity curtailments underway at Hydro's higher-cost smelters.
During the quarter, Hydro closed down about 300,000 mt of annual
capacity relating to planned curtailments of approximately 500,000
mt.

Hydro's Bauxite and Alumina business operated at a loss for the
quarter declining significantly from a positive underlying EBIT in
the fourth quarter of 2008. Underlying results for Alunorte fell
sharply reflecting significantly lower realized alumina prices
measured in US dollars due to declining LME prices. Alpart continued
to operate at a loss for the quarter. Fifty percent of Alpart's
production capacity was shut-down in the middle of January 2009
reducing output by about 70,000 mt compared to the previous quarter.
In March, a decision was taken by the partners of Alpart to close
down the remaining production. The temporary closure is expected to
be completed by the middle of May 2009.

Underlying EBIT for our Commercial operations showed a substantial
loss for the quarter, heavily influenced by negative currency effects
due to a weaker Euro against the US dollar and Norwegian kroner.
Underlying results for our Commercial Products operations continued
to be impacted by very weak sales volumes with corresponding low
production in our remelters.

Outlook
Aluminium prices are expected to remain low in the medium-term, but
forward visibility continues to be limited. No substantial
improvement in demand for metal products is expected in the coming
months.

The significant drop in demand for aluminium has resulted in
declining demand for raw materials and smelter input costs are
falling.

Curtailed capacity and newly commissioned capacity is expected to
come on stream in China during the next several months, increasing
downward pressure on the SHFE aluminium price. As a result, the
higher level of imports of primary aluminium into the Chinese market
is not expected to be sustainable. Fiscal measures make China a
self-contained market for primary metal in the long-term. As a
result, the market balance for primary aluminium in China is not
expected to have a significant impact on primary metal markets
outside of China in the long-term.

Global primary aluminium consumption excluding China could decline by
15 - 20 percent in 2009 from a consumption level of 25 million mt in
2008. Supported by economic stimulus and recovery packages, Chinese
consumption of primary aluminium in 2009 is expected to be in line
with 2008 level of 12.5 million mt.

Outlook for Hydro
In response to the sharp fall in demand, Hydro has announced
curtailments of about 500,000 mt of primary metal capacity
representing just under 30 percent of Hydro's total capacity in 2008.
As a result, production for the quarter was reduced by 45,000 mt at
our higher cost smelters. By the end of the first quarter, roughly
300,000 mt of this capacity has been shut-down. The remainder will be
idled during the second quarter.

In January 2009 approximately 50 percent of the production capacity
of the Alpart alumina refinery was temporarily curtailed. In March, a
decision was taken to temporarily close down the remaining production
and the plant is expected to be shut-down by the middle of May.
Hydro's share of Alpart's alumina production amounted to
approximately 580,000 mt in 2008. The temporary shutdown of Alpart
will further align Hydro's alumina balance, based on the announced
curtailments in our smelter production system.

Electrolysis production at the Neuss smelter will be fully curtailed
by the end of the second quarter of 2009. If it becomes apparent that
we will not be able to resume production at the plant without
sustainable profits over time, it will be necessary to consider
permanent closure of the operations. A permanent shut-down would
require substantial additional closure costs mainly for termination
of the work force.

Prices for key raw materials have fallen in the past several months
and Hydro has taken active steps to capitalize on this development.
Alumina prices, which are normally linked to LME prices 1), have
declined together with other important raw material prices such as
petroleum coke.

Fluctuation in LME prices impact our alumina costs with a lag of
about two to three months due to the timing of price indexing as well
as transport and storage.

Aluminium Products
Our Aluminium Products business incurred an underlying loss of NOK
257 million for the quarter heavily impacted by the deepening global
recession. All of our sub-segments operated at a loss for the period.
Volumes declined further following a sharp drop in the previous
quarter which was impacted by the negative economic developments in
addition to seasonal declines. The effects from the drop in demand
has been mitigated by cost saving measures such as manning reductions
and procurement initiatives, but with the rapid decline in volumes
the cost measures do not fully compensate for the market effects.

Underlying results for our Rolled Products business were impacted by
lower volumes in all market segments (with the exception of
lithographic products) and declining margins compared to the previous
quarter. Volumes declined significantly for our Extrusion operating
units but to a more limited extent for our Building Systems business.
Margins declined for our European extrusion and Building Systems
business from the previous quarter. Margins for our US operations
improved for the quarter compared to the previous quarter which was
negatively impacted by the reduction of higher priced raw material
inventories increasing cost of goods sold. Underlying results for our
South American operations continued to be positive, but at a lower
level and continued to be negatively impacted by the stronger US
dollar. Underlying results for our Automotive operations were heavily
impacted by the extremely weak automotive market. However, underlying
results improved from the substantial losses incurred in the previous
quarter as cost reduction measures began to have a positive impact.

Outlook
Market developments, in particular the capital intensive transport
and building markets, continue to be highly uncertain due to the
deepening global recession.

Market demand for flat rolled products in Europe is expected to
remain at the current low levels during the coming months, and there
are few signs of improvement. The stronger US dollar versus the Euro
compared to first half 2008 is expected to reduce pressure on margins
from potential imports into European markets. However, we expect
increasing margin pressure in general as a result of weakening
demand. Cost pressure is expected to ease due to the negative
economic developments and lower energy prices. However, developments
are uncertain.

The overall outlook for the European extrusion market continues to be
weak with lower demand across most market segments, in particular the
automotive and transportation segments. The negative market outlook
is expected to result in increased pressure on margins. In the US,
extrusion markets are expected to remain severely depressed, with no
signs of recovery. South American markets are expected to weaken, but
demand in Brazil is expected to continue holding up fairly well.

Following prolonged holiday shutdowns at the end of 2008, a slight
improvement in the European automotive market is expected but demand
is expected to remain significantly below the levels of first half
2008. Demand in North America shows no signs of recovering from the
very low levels experienced in the previous quarters. There are
indications that demand in Asia and South America is weakening from
the robust levels experienced last year.

Outlook for Hydro
Measures to significantly reduce costs and manning throughout our
downstream activities are continuing. Our focused efforts to improve
the profitability of these businesses have helped prepare us for the
sudden and dramatic market developments which occurred towards the
end of last year but can only partly compensate for the unprecedented
fall in market demand. Actions across all of our business sectors
have been identified including additional shift and manning
reductions, procurement initiatives to capitalize on falling raw
material prices as well as reductions in capital expenditures and
working capital. These measures will enable us to partly mitigate the
effects of the significant lower market demand as the on-going
recession in Europe and the US develops.

Energy
Underlying EBIT decreased from the record high result in the fourth
quarter of 2008, which was influenced by exceptionally high spot
prices and high production. The decrease mainly resulted from by
declining spot prices and lower production volumes, which were
however high on a seasonal level. Underlying results improved
somewhat compared to the first quarter of 2008, mainly due to higher
spot prices.

Direct power production costs decreased moderately from the fourth
quarter of 2009, partly due to somewhat lower maintenance activity
during the winter months.

Hydro's solar activities reported an underlying loss of NOK 31
million in the first quarter of 2009 compared with a loss of NOK 52
million in the fourth quarter of 2008 and a loss of NOK 22 million
during the first quarter of 2008. The improvement from the previous
quarter was mainly due to lower research and development costs.

Outlook
By the end of the first quarter, the total water and snow balance in
Norway was estimated to be approximately 10 percent lower than normal
and about 10 percent lower than at the same time in 2008. Forward
prices on the NordPool power exchange indicate that the spot price
level at the end of the first quarter will continue well into the
second quarter. The global economic recession will continue to impact
power markets on the European Continent and in the Nordic region,
with power prices influenced by lower thermal fuel costs and the
effects of lower industrial power consumption.

Outlook for Hydro
Hydro's water and snow reservoirs were lower than normal at the end
of the first quarter, and considerably lower than the corresponding
periods in 2008 and 2007. As a result, power production and financial
results for Energy are expected to be significantly lower in the
second quarter of 2009 compared to previous quarters.

During a maintenance shutdown in March, Hydro detected serious damage
to the high pressure shaft in the Suldal I power station at the
Røldal-Suldal hydroelectric facility in Norway. The repair strategy
and outage time are currently under evaluation but the plant is
expected to be out of production for at least 6 months. Suldal I has
an installed capacity of 160 MW and a normal yearly production of
approximately 1 TWh. Hydro's power production in 2009, and in
particular in the second quarter, will be negatively impacted. The
cost of repair and effects of the business interruption are covered
by insurance, however, offsetting effects of the reimbursement will
likely occur in later quarters than the negative effects of
production losses.

Corporate, other and eliminations
Underlying EBIT for Corporate, other and eliminations amounted to
charge of NOK 176 million in the first quarter compared with a
positive amount of NOK 81 million in the fourth quarter and a
positive amount of NOK 8 million in the first quarter of 2008.
Underlying EBIT included eliminations of changes in unrealized profit
and loss on inventories purchased from group companies amounting to a
credit NOK 155 million and NOK 273 million in the first quarter of
2009 and fourth quarter of 2008 respectively. Pension charges
relating to Corporate and eliminations amounted to NOK 210 million
for the first quarter and NOK 67 million for the previous quarter.

Items excluded from underlying EBIT and income from continuing
operations
To provide a better understanding of Hydro's underlying performance,
the items in the table below have been excluded from EBIT and income
from continuing operations.

Items excluded from underlying EBIT are comprised mainly of
unrealized gains and losses on certain derivatives, impairment and
rationalization charges, effects of disposals of businesses and
operating assets, as well as other items that are of a special nature
or are not expected to be incurred on an ongoing basis.


Items excluded from underlying First Fourth First
income from continuing operations quarter quarter quarter Year
2009 2008 2008 2008
NOK million

Unrealized derivative effects on LME 727 1,984 (560) 1,120
related contracts
Unrealized derivative effects on (580) (1,481) 1,291 768
power contracts
Unrealized derivative effects on (19) 265 9 314
currency contracts
Metal effect, Rolled Products 662 407 113 235
Significant rationalization charges 305 109 - 109
and closure costs
Impairment charges (PP&E and equity 10 2,464 - 2,464
accounted investments)
Loss provisions (power contracts) - 257 - 257
(Gains)/losses on divestments - (29) - (453)
Items excluded from underlying EBIT 1,105 3,975 853 4,815
Net foreign exchange (gain)/loss (1,478) 4,629 (854) 5,491
Calculated income tax effect 174 (2,943) (66) (3,460)
Items excluded from underlying (199) 5,661 (67) 6,846
income from continuing operations


Finance
During the quarter, currency gains on intercompany balances
denominated in Euro amounted to about NOK 1.5 billion due to weaker
Euro against the Norwegian kroner. These gains have no cash effect
and are offset in equity by translation of the corresponding
subsidiaries during consolidation. 1) The net effect of other
currency gains and losses relating to the Euro, US dollars and other
currencies during the quarter was not significant.

At end of first quarter 2009 cash and cash equivalents amounted to
NOK 3.1 billion down from NOK 3.3 billion at the end of fourth
quarter 2008. During first quarter 2009 Hydro issued NOK 1 billion in
commercial paper and drew-down EUR 100 million on an a new EUR 750
million syndicated 3-year revolving credit facility.

The Euro gains arise from group positions that create accounting
gains recognized in the income statement of the parent company when
the Euro depreciates against the Norwegian kroner. No corresponding
losses are recognized in the income statement of the subsidiaries
that use Euro as functional currency. This has no cash effect for the
group. When the subsidiaries Euro financial statements are translated
into NOK for consolidation, currency effects on the Euro intercompany
deposits are included directly in consolidated equity in the balance
sheet, offsetting the currency gains recognized through the income
statement of the parent company.

Tax
Income taxes amounted to a charge of NOK 155 million in the quarter
compared with a positive amount of NOK 1,748 million in the previous
quarter and a charge of NOK 734 million in the first quarter of 2008.

Income taxes charges in the first quarter on pre-tax losses of NOK
126 million resulted mainly from the effects of power surtaxes and
the results from equity accounted investments, which are recognized
net of tax.

Press contact
Contact Erik Brynhildsbakken
Telephone +47 22538301
Cellular +47 41751271
E-mail Erik.Brynhildsbakken@hydro.com

Investor contact
Contact Stefan Solberg
Telephone +47 22539280
Cellular +47 91727528
E-mail Stefan.Solberg@hydro.com

*********
Certain statements included within this announcement contain
forward-looking information, including, without limitation, those
relating to (a) forecasts, projections and estimates, (b) statements
of management's plans, objectives and strategies for Hydro, such as
planned expansions, investments or other projects, (c) targeted
production volumes and costs, capacities or rates, start-up costs,
cost reductions and profit objectives, (d) various expectations about
future developments in Hydro's markets, particularly prices, supply
and demand and competition, (e) results of operations, (f) margins,
(g) growth rates, (h) risk management, as well as (i) statements
preceded by "expected", "scheduled", "targeted", "planned",
"proposed", "intended" or similar statements.
Although we believe that the expectations reflected in such
forward-looking statements are reasonable, these forward-looking
statements are based on a number of assumptions and forecasts that,
by their nature, involve risk and uncertainty. Various factors could
cause our actual results to differ materially from those projected in
a forward-looking statement or affect the extent to which a
particular projection is realized. Factors that could cause these
differences include, but are not limited to: our continued ability to
reposition and restructure our upstream and downstream aluminium
business; changes in availability and cost of energy and raw
materials; global supply and demand for aluminium and aluminium
products; world economic growth, including rates of inflation and
industrial production; changes in the relative value of currencies
and the value of commodity contracts; trends in Hydro's key markets
and competition; and legislative, regulatory and political factors.
No assurance can be given that such expectations will prove to have
been correct. Hydro disclaims any obligation to update or revise any
forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information,
future events or otherwise.


This announcement was originally distributed by Hugin. The issuer is
solely responsible for the content of this announcement.

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