Virgin America soars in market debut

Fri Nov 14, 2014 4:10pm EST
 
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By Amrutha Gayathri

(Reuters) - Shares of Virgin America Inc, a low-cost airline partly owned by Richard Branson, soared more than 30 percent in their market debut, underscoring the buoyant mood in an industry that is emerging from a long spell of turbulence.

U.S. airline stocks hit a 13-year high this week as they gained momentum from lower oil prices and increased travel spending by Americans in an improving economy.

The company's IPO is the first for a U.S. airline since May 2011, when Spirit Airlines Inc went public.

Shares of Virgin America closed $7 above their IPO price of $23 on the Nasdaq on Friday. They touched a high of $31.18 earlier in the session, valuing the company at about $1.35 billion.

"Shares are probably trading a little higher than we expected, but we did expect an opening day pop," Virgin America Chief Executive David Cush told Reuters.

At the high, the stock was trading 8.08 times 2013 earnings, compared with Southwest Airlines Co's multiple of 37.43 and JetBlue Airways Corp's 24.43.

"I think it's a buy-and-hold story," said Josef Schuster, founder of IPO investment firm IPOX Schuster LLC.

Virgin America is the U.S. offshoot of Branson's London-based Virgin Group, which is involved in sectors including airlines, railroads, telecommunications, media and hospitality.   Continued...

 
Virgin America Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer David Cush (3rd R) poses for photographs with Virgin America flight crews as Virgin America Inc. celebrated its initial public offering at the NASDAQ Market Site in New York, November 14, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Segar