Huntsman names spinoff Venator Materials Corp.

The Woodlands-based Huntsman Corp. chemicals giant will name its pigments business after the latin word for hunter — a play off of the family name — as it spins off into its own company this spring.

The new Venator Materials Corp. will start trading by the end of June as its own company under the stock ticker “VNTR,” Huntsman announced Tuesday.

Huntsman President and Chief Executive Peter Huntsman said the legacy company though will retain the textile effects business, which originally was to be included in the spinoff. The business makes dyes and chemicals that offer qualities such as sun protection, built-in freshness and imaging effects for textiles and other products.

Huntsman said last year it planned to spin off its pigments business in 2017. The new Venator would focus largely on the titanium dioxide chemical, called TiO2, which is used as a pigment for everything from food coloring and paints to coatings and sunscreen. The business is more cyclical than Huntsman’s other divisions and prone to more financial peaks and valleys. Huntsman values the business at more than $2 billion.

“We expect Venator will be a premier pigments company unencumbered by excessive debt or other unrelated liabilities,” Peter Huntsman said in Tuesday’s announcement.

Huntsman Corp. became the world’s second-largest pigments producer two years ago after buying more than $1 billion in plants from New York-based Rockwood Holdings.

But the timing was bad, Huntsman admitted. The pigments business is cyclical, dominated by four or five large paint companies whose buying decisions drive the cycle up or down.

Huntsman said he bought the Rockwood assets at a good price during a cyclical low, but that trough lasted two years longer than expected and dragged down the value of Huntsman Corp.

He said the company is already eyeing potential mergers or acquisitions that could be made with proceeds from the spinoff and wouldn’t rule out making deals before the new company goes public next year.

After the company went public in 2005, Huntsman moved the family business from Utah, where it was founded, to The Woodlands, where it would be closer to its plants, customers, and supplies of natural gas that provide the feedstock for petrochemicals. Huntsman today employs about 15,000 people in 30 countries, including more than 1,300 in the Houston area.