Companies all of a sudden seem to have a burning desire to break up. Investors get excited revaluing stocks, searching for hidden value that can boost portfolio returns. They shouldn’t. It’s a sign of a market top.
DuPont (ticker: DD), General Electric (GE), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), and Toshiba (6502.Japan) are four of the latest companies to announce breakup plans. All have all announced some major transformation in the past few days. DuPont is buying a high-growth business and spinning off a low-growth business. GE and Toshiba are breaking up into three. J&J is separating out its consumer-health business—think baby powder in one company, and pharmaceuticals in the other.
That’s more than $600 billion in market capitalization that believes being smaller is better.
The price action makes sense, according to Jim Osman, founder of research firm The Edge. Osman’s firm focuses on special situations such as spin offs. “Historically, what we’ve see, there is a plethora of spinoffs that happen in two situations: [market] tops and bottoms,” explains Osman. The spinoffs happening at the bottom are usually great for investors, offering hidden values at distressed prices. That isn’t what’s happening now, in most situations.