* Amcor to focus on core global plastics business
* To also keep cigarette packaging business
* Follows Brambles plan to spin off data management unit
By Jane Wardell
SYDNEY, Aug 1 (Reuters) - Australia's Amcor Ltd said it plans to list its glass and beverage can packaging unit, a business valued at around $1.8 billion, so that it can better focus on its core global business of plastics packaging.
The spin-off, slated for December, follows a similar plan by Australian pellet supplier Brambles Ltd to float its $2 billion data management business.
The world's third-biggest packaging company stressed it had businesses with very different product and geographical segments, with the plastics packaging business deriving 95 percent of its sales outside Australia. Amcor will also retain cigarette packaging, a big growth market in eastern Europe and Asia.
In contrast, the glass, beverage can and carton board business, Australasia and Packaging Distribution (AAPD), garners two thirds of its earnings from Australia and New Zealand. It accounted for about 15 per cent of the company's profits before interest and tax last financial year.
"Broadly speaking, it looks like a good move for shareholders," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets. "I think it does seem to be a situation where some of the parts are ultimately worth more than the whole."
AAPD's 2012 earnings value the business at around A$2 billion ($1.8 billion) based on Amcor's overall market capitalisation of A$13 billion.
Chief Executive Ken MacKenzie declined to comment on how much the listing would be worth.
Amcor shares surged as much as 6 percent before losing some of those gains in afternoon trade, when they were up 1.3 percent at A$10.73.
"To us, the valuation uplifts or improvement is not immediately obvious but Amcor is already pretty highly valued given that its rallied so strongly particularly as a U.S. play and an Aussie dollar play as well," said Martin Lakos, division director at Macquarie Bank.
Analysts expect Amcor to post its fifth consecutive year of double-digit profit growth in 2013 after lifting underlying net profit by 5.7 per cent to A$322 million in the first half.
MacKenzie will remain the CEO and managing director of Amcor. Nigel Garrard, the current president of AAPD will be appointed CEO of the new company.
Asked about the impact of a slowing Australian economy on the AAPD business, MacKenzie said it was "extremely well-positioned to be sustainable in Australia", noting Amcor has invested more than A$1 billion in the unit over the past six years, including a new recycled paper mill in Sydney.
The plan will need to be approved by shareholders and Amcor is expected to provide further details when it announces full-year results on Aug. 19.