By Houston Business Journal

Marathon Oil Corp. shares moved sharply higher in heavy trading Thursday on the news that the company intends to split in half.

The Marathon board of directors said in a statement that it had approved plans to split the Houston oil giant into two separate companies.

Marathon (NYSE: MRO) shares moved as high as $44.90 Thursday before closing at $42.98, a gain of $2.45 or 6 percent. More than 44 million shares changed hands, compared to the stock's typical daily volume of 5.4 million shares.

The post-split result would be a downsized Marathon Oil Corp. focused on upstream, and Marathon Petroleum Corp., a downstream business to be headquartered in Findlay, Ohio.

Marathon Petroleum will trade its common stock on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol MPC.

Marathon expects the spin-off to be effective by June 30.

"The substantial improvement in the global business and financial environments over the last two years has created the conditions under which we believe it is now appropriate to move forward with the formation of two strong independent energy companies,⿝ Clarence Cazalot Jr., president and CEO of Marathon, said in a statement.

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