The news, announced in a press release Monday, was not unexpected. UTC boss Greg Hayes said in March that the company was looking to split off Sikorsky, citing concerns that the helicopter giant does not fit in with the rest of the company.
However, the announcement still throws a wrench into the helicopter market, as Sikorsky owns a significant chunk of the military rotorcraft customer base.
In today's statement, UTC announced that "a decision on whether Sikorsky will be spun off or sold is expected by the end of the third quarter."
"Our strategic review has confirmed that exiting the helicopter business is the best path forward for United Technologies," Hayes was quoted as saying in the statement. "Sikorsky is the world's premier helicopter company and through a series of strategic wins is well positioned for long-term growth. However, separation of Sikorsky from the portfolio will allow both United Technologies and Sikorsky to better focus on their core businesses."
In the military realm, UTC also owns aircraft engine maker Pratt & Whitney and UTC Aerospace Systems. However, those companies both firmly sit in the support and services sector, as opposed to the airframe production world that Sikorsky inhabits.
Analysts have noted that a sale is unlikely, due to US tax provisions that say sales of a company results in a gain tax; a spinoff does not need to pay that tax. However, if the spinoff is bought by another company within a two-year period, the burden of proof is on the original company to prove this wasn't a tax avoidance scheme. After two years, the burden shifts to the IRS to prove anything is amiss.
Because of how long Sikorsky has been owned by UTC, the tax bill for a sale would be huge, likely negating the possibility of another firm buying Sikorsky from UTC in the short term. Instead, a spinoff is the likely outcome, with a company looking to buy Sikorsky once that two-year period had passed.
Sikorsky should survive in the meantime, analysts have said, although it will likely have to trim its overhead as it goes forward.
That process is already underway, it seems, as Sikorsky announced earlier this month it would lay off 1,400 workers across its various facilities. As part of those layoffs, the company is consolidating its Connecticut operations and closing its Bridgeport facility.