Carrier Global Corp., a maker of air conditioners and freezer pods, began trading as a standalone company on April 3. It could have been a disaster: Most of the world was locked down as the pandemic raged, and the stock market was swinging between spectacular slumps and wild gains. But as 2020 ends, Carrier is the best-performing industrial stock in the S&P 500—by a long shot.
Its shares have climbed more than 200% since the company separated from longtime parent United Technologies Corp. The split was part of a three-way breakup that also married the company’s aerospace businesses with defense contractor Raytheon Co. For years analysts had questioned why the air conditioning business and the Otis Worldwide Corp. elevator unit needed to be under the same roof as divisions that sold jet engines and aircraft wheels. Eventually, activist investors Dan Loeb and Bill Ackman also backed a breakup, arguing that United Technologies’ myriad businesses would benefit from more-focused management teams. That’s helped, but investors couldn’t have predicted things like ventilation and refrigerated trailers would have such a moment in 2020.