Alcoa will split into two independent companies, separating its bauxite, aluminum and casting operations from its engineering, transportation and global rolled products businesses.
The century-plus-old metals maker has been dealing with a downturn in its smelting business because of lower aluminum prices. The split will create one company focusing on upstream products, including aluminum. The other company will focus on engineered products, which includes the automotive and aerospace segments.
It’s unclear how the split will affect the Alcoa Intalco Works smelter west of Ferndale that employs more than 500 workers and manufactures aluminum bars and billets that serve as raw material for aluminum products factories around the world.
Alcoa’s announcement did not go into details about specific plants like the Intalco facility. For now it’s business as usual, and the facilities continue to operate as one integrated company, said Monica Orbe, an Alcoa spokeswoman. She added that more information will be shared in the months leading up to the separation, which is expected in the second half of 2016.
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The split is part of a wider movement by companies to spin off units in a bid to boost shareholder value. Often, the strategy helps free the stronger part of a company’s business from a weaker segment.
The aluminum and upstream products company will retain the Alcoa name. The name of the engineered products company has yet to be determined.
Alcoa Inc. is based in New York with significant operations in Pittsburgh. The company has been an industrial presence in the U.S. economy for well over a century, dating its founding as the Pittsburgh Reduction Co. in 1888.
“In the last few years, we have successfully transformed Alcoa to create two strong value engines that are now ready to pursue their own distinctive strategic directions,” Chairman and CEO Klaus Kleinfeld said in a statement.
The company has been shifting its focus to its more profitable automotive and aerospace products, which also involve titanium. It has been shutting down unprofitable aluminum smelters as a surplus of the material on the market weighs down prices and profit.
Earlier this month, Alcoa broadened a partnership with Ford Motor Co. through the use of a stronger form of aluminum for auto body parts. It also spent about $60 million to expand its three-dimensional manufacturing capabilities at a technical center in the Pittsburgh area.
After the planned split, Kleinfeld will lead the as yet unnamed company focusing on engineering products. Each company will have its own board of directors, and full management teams will be named in the months leading up to the split.
Several other companies have either split over the last year or plan to do so. eBay split off its payments unit PayPal into a separate company. Hewlett-Packard is in the process of splitting its slumping personal computing unit and its better performing servers, software and consulting services unit. Gannett Co. plans to split its weaker publishing unit from its digital and broadcasting unit.
Alcoa’s shares rose 32 cents, or 3.5 percent, to $9.39 in morning trading Monday. Its shares are down 41 percent so far this year.
Bellingham Herald Business Editor Dave Gallagher contributed to this story.