Walter Industries wants to be Walter Energy
Wake up and good morning. Tampa's Walter Industries has long been associated with home building, going back to 1946 when founder Jim Walter launched a residential construction business and what was then Jim Walter Corporation rose to become a major Fortune 500 company. In the decades since then, Walter's expanded into many different businesses. And along the way, it's become known as a "conglomerate" which, in this day and age, can be construed as another word for "lots of businesses, little direction."
Walter's wanted to streamline for years and has done so with a vengeance, ridding itself of its home building (see photo of an early Jim Walter home below) and other units awhile ago. It planned at one point to divest even its Alabama-centered coal business, but it's apparently a good thing it did not do so. (Above: photo of Walter workers at "Mine No. 4" where metallurgical coal is mined, courtesy of Walter Industries.)
That's because Walter Industries wants to change its name to Walter Energy Inc. That name change is one of the resolutions in Walter's proxy statement and will be voted upon by shareholders at the company's upcoming annual meeting on April 23, to be held at the Marriott Tampa Airport at 10 a.m.
States Walter's proxy: "Our current name, Walter Industries Inc., implies involvement in two or more industries."
And that's what bothers Walter. It's long figured that a business with a simple, singular focus -- in this case natural gas and metallurgical coal (the kind used to help make steel) -- will help the company win the attention of Wall Street again and the respect of analysts.
The stock market, which pushed Walter's stock to a high of nearly $112 a share last summer before losing $100 and plummeting under $12. Its shares now trade just under $25. Walter probably would like to reduce such rollercoaster stock rides.
Will it work with a new, more sharply defined name? Perhaps. But what happens if metallurgical coal falls out of favor?
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist