The board of directors of ConocoPhillips has approved a plan to separate the firm into two publicly traded energy companies.
The oil giant will turn its refining and marketing business and exploration and production business into two standalone corporations "via a tax-free spin of the refining and marketing business to ConocoPhillips shareholders," the company said in a news release.
"Following the completion of the proposed separation, ConocoPhillips will be a large and geographically diverse pure-play exploration and production company with strong returns and investment opportunities," the company said.
Houston-based ConocoPhillips, which has 29,600 employees, hopes to complete the separation in the first half of 2012.
When the split is complete, Chairman and CEO Jim Mulva plans to retire. Mulva, though, will lead the efforts to separate the company.
"The work to determine the detailed allocation of assets and liabilities, the management and governance of the companies, and the mechanics of completing the separation will begin immediately," the company said.
As a separate company, ConocoPhillips' refining and marketing business "will be a leading pure-play independent refiner with a competitive and diverse set of assets."
"Under the contemplated plan, both companies will be well positioned with financial strength and flexibility and experienced management teams committed to continued value creation," the company said.
The proposed separation of ConocoPhillips into two companies does not require a shareholder vote, the company noted, but it will need approval from the federal government and final approval from the board of directors.
Houston-based ConocoPhillips planned to hold a conference call at 8:30 a.m. EDT today.