Shares of FMC Corporation (NYSE:FMC) fell over 10% last month, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence. While the majority of stocks dropped during the broad market sell-off in October, the lithium and agricultural technology company saw its shares decline for a unique reason: It completed the separation of its lithium segment and agricultural segment into two separate companies.
FMC Corporation now is solely focused on agricultural markets, while the newly listed Livent Corporation (NYSE:LTHM) will assume the ambitious expansion plans in the lithium markets. However, the separation isn't complete just yet. The parent still owns 85% of the lithium business, now in the form of shares of the separate publicly traded company, which it will spin off to existing FMC Corporation shareholders on March 1, 2019. I previously wrote that would occur in October, but that wasn't the case.
While both businesses reported strong third-quarter 2018 results in early November, there's going to be a lame-duck period as investors wait for the separation to be completed.
On the one hand, it's great that FMC Corporation has set expectations for what it intends to do and when it intends to do it. That provides certainty to the markets, Livent Corporation's employees, and shareholders of both companies.
On the other hand, everyone has to wait until March 2019 for finality regarding this separation. That means 85% of Livent Corporation's shares are essentially locked up (they're held by FMC Corporation and unavailable to provide liquidity to the lithium business), so the lithium stock will probably bob around in the meantime. Similarly, FMC Corporation expects to report the lithium business' operating results as its own through the fourth quarter of 2019, but investors may discount the data considering those operations will be jettisoned soon enough.
Simply put, investors might find it difficult to get excited about either stock until the spinoff is completed in March 2019, but there's still a lot to like when it comes to FMC Corporation. The business continues to plow through headwinds in the agricultural markets to deliver revenue and earnings growth. Investors who own shares today will get a piece of one of the world's leading lithium producers in early 2019 -- not this fall as originally reported.