NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Shares of ITT ( ITT) blew higher by 14% Wednesday after the manufacturing conglomerate and icon of 20th century American business prowess said it would split itself into three separate companies.

Investors liked the idea. The stock was trading recently at $59.95, up 13.6%, after earlier rising as high as $64, a 52-week high. Volume was frantic at 15.3 million shares, compared with average daily turnover of just 1 million.

The breakup plan, announced before the opening bell Wednesday, calls for the formation of an industrial-products concern, a defense contractor and a manufacturer of water technologies. ITT will spin off the latter two companies, keeping the industrial products businesses and the name. After the deal is completed, shareholders will own stock in all three entities.

The company said it expects to complete the spinoff "before the end of the year." It wasn't more specific.

"Each new company will be more nimble and able to build stronger, more intimate customer relationships to accelerate mutual success," said Steve Loranger, ITT's chairman, in the press release.

In its press release announcing the deal, ITT offered 2011 sales projections for each company. The industrial products entity will bring in a top line of $2.1 billion; the water technology business $3.6 billion, and the defense contractor $5.8 billion.

Based in White Plains, N.Y., the current ITT is also the product of a previous cleaving. In 1995, an even more massive ITT -- which expanded amid a rage on Wall Street in the 1960s for enormous corporate agglomerations -- broke into a hotel company (including the Sheraton chain), an insurer and the current manufacturing group. At one time or another, ITT has owned Wonder Bread, the predecessor of Alcatel-Lucent ( ALU) , Avis Rent-a-Car (now part of Avis Budget ( CAR) ), Hartford Financial Services ( HIG) , and the predecessor of Worldcom, among many, many other companies.

-- Written by Scott Eden in New York

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