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IPOs: new flavors, new strength
Biggest number of offerings since 2001 slated; experts say mix is unique, suggests economic health.
November 18, 2003: 3:24 PM EST
By Meghan Collins, CNN/Money Staff Writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - The unusual mix of companies going public this week is not only a good sign for the initial public offerings market, but also a reflection of the recent strength in the economy, analysts who follow new stock offerings said Tuesday.

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October was the busiest month in more than a year for IPOs. CNNfn's Stephanie Elam takes a closer look at the IPO market.

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"This is the biggest IPO week in two years," said Jeffrey Hirschkorn, senior analyst for initial public offerings at Alpha Advisors.

The last time the market saw a week with more than seven IPOs was in mid-December 2001, with 10, according to research firm Renaissance Capital's IPOhome division.

The big week for IPOs could help translate into an even more monumental month. With 17 initial public offerings slated for November, the month is on track for the most IPOs since November 2000, when there were 21, according to IPOhome. June 2001 came the closest so far, with 15.

Among the companies planning to go public this week: a restaurant chain that specializes in selling "buffalo" chicken wings, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Northwest's Pinnacle Airline, only the second regional airline tied to a major carrier to go public.

In addition, there are Conn's, the consumer electronics chain, broadcaster Nexstar, energy company Whiting Petroleum, drug maker TolerRx, and business software maker Callidus.

"There's a good mix," said Kathy Smith, portfolio manager for Renaissance Capital's IPO Plus Fund. "What could be better? It's fantastic. It's the economy. It tells you something about the health of the market."

Film to food to airlines, and beyond ...

This week's offerings also come along with the first-ever offering of shares in an independent film.

Last week investors got a chance to buy shares in "Billy Dead," starring Ethan Hawke. While most IPOs take place on the major exchanges, share of the Ethan Hawke film are being sold on the Web for $8.75 each, with a minimum order of 100 shares. An affiliate of the film production company underwriting the offering expects to raise about $7.2 million from the offering.

This week will see the first major restaurant to go public since Red Robin Burgers (RRGB: down $1.18 to $24.63, Research, Estimates) in July 2002, and could be the most successful since the IPO of doughnut chain Krispy Kreme (KKD: down $0.95 to $40.27, Research, Estimates) in 2001, according to some market watchers.

Minneapolis-based Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) plans to offer 2.7 million shares at $14-to-$16 apiece Friday. The Midwest restaurant chain, which is known for its 12 signature wings sauces, was founded in 1982 and operates or franchises 220 restaurants.

"Restaurant deals always do really well because the come out at different times of the year. There are very few, they are unique," said Alpha's Hirschkorn. "I have high hopes for this one."

Northwest's Pinnacle Airlines (PNCL), only the second regional air carrier to be spun off by a major airline, was set to offer 19.4 million shares at $15-to-$17 each, also Friday. Pinnacle had initially filed to go public in February 2002.

Continental's ExpressJet Holdings (XJT: down $1.30 to $15.47, Research, Estimates) initially offered shares in April 2002. Another regional carrier, Republic Airways, also filed to offer shares in July 2002, but postponed the deal. JetBlue (JBLU: down $1.30 to $52.55, Research, Estimates) and Southwest (LUV: down $0.54 to $17.59, Research, Estimates), both publicly traded low-cost airlines, have been successful.

While initial public offerings have dropped significantly from the heights of 1999, they picked up speed in the third quarter. The value of stock IPOs jumped to $3.1 billion in the quarter from $540 million a year earlier.

Corporate Finance
Financing, Stock Offerings

As of Tuesday, there had been 42 initial public offerings so far in 2003 for a total of $7.8 billion, down 33 percent from the 63 IPOs at the same point in 2002, according to Renaissance Capital. But October marked the best month for IPOs since June 2002.

Among others this week, appliances and electronics retailer Conn's (CONN), based in Beaumont, Texas, expects to raise $60 million-to-$70 million, while Nexstar Broadcasting Group (NXST), operator of 27 TV stations, is seeking to raise $140 million-to-$160 million.

Cambridge, Mass.-based TolerRx (TLRX), a drugmaker for immune system diseases, expects to take in $56 million-to-$66 million, while San Jose, Calif.-based business software maker Callidus Software (CALD), could raise $60 million-to-$70 million. Alliant Energy (LNT: down $0.53 to $23.70, Research, Estimates) was set to spin off its oil and gas exploration business, Whiting Petroleum Corp. (WLL), which could raise $210 million-to-$240 million.  Top of page

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