The major difference between an IPO and a spin-off is that one gets major media 'spin', while the other can be vastly ignored. The lack of a major financial transaction-- and hence, fees-- tends to reduce the push by investment houses. Just by viewing articles posted on this very website one can quickly derive that the general public has less interests in spin-offs versus IPOs, to their own detriment. This provides a major advantage to alert investors. Outside the major spin-offs, like the upcoming ones at Kraft (KFT) and ConnocoPhillips (COP), the others fall under the radar by the investing community.
Historically, spin-offs have provided solid returns for savvy investors. This is partly due to investors ignoring or not understanding the new security, but also because spin-offs allow both the parent and the spun off company to thrive, with each management team free to focus on its direct business.
A few interesting spin-offs took place around year-end to little or no fanfare.
TripAdvisor (TRIP) from Expedia (EXPE) - See presentation
WPX Energy (WPX) from Williams Energy (WMB) - See presentation
Orchard Supply Hardware (OSH) from Sears Holdings (SHLD) - see presentation
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