​Making their way

Many Virginia spinoffs have prospered as independent companies

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Print this page by Robert Burke

Big companies usually split up because one part — or sometimes both — can do better alone. Generally that premise has proven to be true for the biggest corporate restructuring deals in Virginia in recent years.

Among them are:

  • In March 2011, Fairfax County-based Northrop Grumman spun off its shipbuilding operations, creating Huntington Ingalls Industries, now a Fortune 500 company. HII is based in Newport News, where it operates the nation’s largest shipyard, building nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and nuclear-powered submarines. The company’s stock has done well since its launch, trading in early July at about $56 per share, up from $41 per share when the company was launched. It employs about 37,000 people — 22,000 of them at the Newport News shipyard and 2,000 in Virginia Beach, with the rest at operations in Louisiana, California and Mississippi.
  • Altria Group, based in Henrico County, spun off Philip Morris International in March 2008. PMI is based in New York City but doesn’t do business in the U.S., instead targeting overseas customers. The spin-off was touted as a way to let PMI take fuller advantage of potential growth by escaping the restrictions the tobacco giant faced in the U.S. market, both from federal legislation and litigation over the health effects of tobacco use. Its net income last year was $8.59 billion.
  • In September 2002, now-defunct Circuit City Stores , a Fortune 500 company, spun off CarMax Inc., its used-car business. The first CarMax location opened in 1993 outside Richmond, and the business outperformed Circuit City’s consumer electronics stores. Circuit City went bankrupt in 2009 in the depths of the Great Recession. Henrico-based CarMax, a Fortune 500 company in its own right, has done well on its own: Its stock is priced at around $46 today, up from just over $12 when it was launched. In its first quarter this year net sales and operating revenues were up 19 percent, and it added three new stores, including one in Harrisonburg.
  • General Electric in May 2004 spun off its insurance business to create Genworth Financial, headquartered in Henrico. The move gave GE some financial breathing room, and initially Genworth did very well, with its shares climbing from around $20 at its launch to nearly $40 in 2007 before plummeting during the worst of the housing crisis in 2009. Today its shares are trading at about $12 and its first-quarter operating profit was $21 million, compared with an operating loss of $44 million a year earlier.
  • In 2008 McLean-based Booz Allen Hamilton split in two, creating Booz & Co., a firm to handle its commercial and overseas business, and the other keeping the original name and continuing work in its government-sector business. The private equity firm The Carlyle Group has a majority ownership of Booz Allen Hamilton stock. The firm has been in the news a lot lately — it employed Edward Snowden, who in June leaked classified information about U.S. monitoring of phone and Internet data.
  • McLean-based ITT Exelis was spun off from ITT Corp. in October 2011, creating a new $5.9 billion Fortune 500 business focused on government security contracts. It has about 19,000 employees worldwide and had a net profit margin in the first quarter of 3.7 percent, down from nearly 6 percent a year earlier.


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