Getting down to nuts and bolts

June 9, 2008

(Updates with company declining to comment.)

Honeywell International Inc’s disclosure on Monday that it would sell its aerospace fastener business to B/E Aerospace Inc in a $1.05 billion deal could be a sign that the U.S. manufacturer is taking a more critical look at its broad portfolio, which ranges from making cockpit electronics and automation systems for large commercial buildings to selling Prestone antifreeze.

“It appears to signal a more active management of the portfolio. As such, we seeHoneywell International Inc. CEO David Cote speaks at the Reuters Manufacturing Summit in New York February 26, 2007. REUTERS/Eric Thayer (UNITED STATES) a higher probability for disposal of the the perennially underperforming consumer automotive after-market business, which we believe would be viewed positively by investors,” wrote Deutsche Bank analyst Nigel Coe in a note to clients.

Wall Street has long questioned whether the consumer products business, which also offers spark plugs and air filters, fits into Honeywell’s otherwise high-tech product lineup. The questions have picked up over the past year as surging gasoline prices and a slower U.S. economy have caused consumers to downshift their purchases of the products the group makes.

While acknowledging that the business doesn’t perfectly fit his mantra of “great positions in good industries,” Honeywell Chief Executive Dave Cote has so far defended the unit.

“It’s a great position in an OK industry in the U.S.,” Cote told Reuters in February. “Just because things get tough doesn’t mean you bail.”

Honeywell officials, who have said the company could do $2 billion to $3 billion in takeovers this year, declined to comment on the Deutsche Bank note.

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