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ConAgra to split into two publicly traded companies

ConAgra Foods said it would separate into two independent public companies, one of which would focus on its consumer brands and the other on its frozen potato products business.

The consumer brands business will be renamed Conagra Brands and the frozen potato products business will operate under the Lamb Weston name.

The transaction is expected to be structured as a tax-free spinoff of the Lamb Weston business.

The move is part of a larger reshuffling in a company that has acquired more natural food options, cut costs and consolidated its consumer business, CEO Sean Connolly told CNBC's "Power Lunch."

"Today we announced we are splitting in to two pure plays, one of which ... will be ConAgra Brands," Connolly said. "That's a business where we have plenty of work to do, to enhance the portfolio we already own. But of course, we'll always be open to new additions that can modernize and enhance the portfolio."

In addition to "unlocking the value" in the two diverse businesses, Connolly said the move will position the companies for the long term.

"The key is, we've got to continue to strengthen our portfolios so we've got more pricing power, we've got more fuel to drive stronger innovation, and we've got to navigate the terms, whether they go up or they go down, with a focus on the long haul," Connolly said.

Shares of ConAgra Foods, owner of the Chef Boyardee brand, rose more than 4 percent Wednesday after the news, on a day the markets rose less than 2 percent.

— CNBC staff contributed to this report.