Olin May Have Its Formula Right

Once a laggard in chemicals, Olin (OLN) has been a highflier of late. Its stock hit a new peak of 71 7/8 on Sept. 12, in part because of upbeat recommendations by a couple of Street analysts. Rising demand for chemicals and brass, they note, improved the outlook for Olin, which makes electrochemicals as well as metal products used in coins, ammunition, and electronics. But, says one New York investment manager, there's another factor behind the surge: a big restructuring that includes sale of important assets.

One investment banker puts the private-market value of Olin's assets at $130 a share. The unit that provides the highest profit margin among Olin's three operations is the metals group, he notes, producing copper, copper alloys, and fabricated products. Metals could well become Olin's core division, after the restructuring, he says.

Management is said to be shopping its aerospace-defense operations. Olin had attempted last year to form a joint venture of this unit with Alliant Technology, a maker of rocket engines and ammunition, but the Justice Dept. nixed the idea. The talk is that Alliant may make a bid to buy the unit. Olin declined comment.