Williams to Split; IPO Proceeds to Pay Debt

The board of directors of Williams Cos approved today a plan to split the company into two separate publicly traded corporations, a move that sent the company's shares soaring in after-hours trade.

The proposed split will result in two energy companies. One will specialize in exploration and production, while the other will focus on implementing large infrastructure to connect North America's natural gas supplies to premium markets.

The initial public offering of New E&P, the exploration and production company, is expected in the third quarter of 2011. Proceeds will be used to pay off the company's corporate debt, with dividends expected to increase by 60 percent in June 2011, with an additional 10 to 15 percent increase in June 2012.

Shares of Williams , which closed up 2.7 percent in regular Wednesday trade, were last up 12 percent. Click here for after-hours quotes on Williams.