United Technologies (UTX) pushed back after an activist investor said a split of the underperforming industrial conglomerate would release billions in shareholder value.


In a quarterly investor letter Friday, Third Point CEO Dan Loeb argued for breaking United Tech into three business units — elevators, climate control and aerospace. The hedge fund sees such a move reversing years of underperformance; realizing the full potential of the company’s franchise assets; and fixing problems for the advanced Geared Turbofan jet engine from United Technologies’ Pratt & Whitney unit.

The letter spoke of a new “significant stake” in the $100 billion industrial giant, which had already been reported in March.

United Technologies countered in a statement that it “disagrees with several of the assertions” in the Third Point letter, without specifying which. It added a full portfolio review should be completed this year, after the pending acquisition of Rockwell Collins (COL) closes. CEO Greg Hayes has said he is mulling a breakup of core businesses.

Still, Third Point’s letter made note of United Tech’s “weak operating performance” and added “a three-way split would unlock in excess of $20 billion of value,” net of separation costs.

‘Botched Ramp-Up’

Third Point added: “UTC fits a pattern of many underperforming conglomerates where value is diminished by the ill effects of a ‘one size fits all’ approach to corporate strategy, incentive compensation, and capital allocation.” A history of poor management led most recently to the “botched ramp-up” of the next-generation geared turbofan (GTF) engine, it said.

Some Wall Street analysts expected the GTF to be a profit driver. But problems with the jet engine led to grounded flights and tensions with aircraft maker Airbus (EADSY).

Meanwhile, rival jet engine maker General Electric (GE) reports deliveries of its next-gen Leap are behind schedule. A GE unit made the Boeing (BA) jet engine that blew apart midair in April.

Dow Jones Giant Splits Eyed

Some analysts have argued that struggling General Electric should break up. GE has divested NBCUniversal and most of GE Capital over the past several years. Meanwhile, DowDuPont (DWDP), the recent union of Dow Chemical and DuPont, aims to split into three more-focused companies.

United Technologies, GE and DowDuPont are all Dow Jones components, as is Boeing.

Shares of United Technologies popped 1.5% on the stock market today after hitting a seven-month low Thursday. GE rose 1.3%, back above its 50-day line but still near long-term lows. Rockwell Collins advanced 0.7%, Airbus added 0.3% and Boeing gained 1.1%.


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