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Travelocity owner Sabre rises in IPO

DAVID KOENIG, AP Business Writer


DALLAS (AP) — Shares of Sabre Corp. ended higher Thursday, but the provider of technology services to the travel industry raised less money than it had projected in its initial public offering.

The company had offered fewer shares than planned and lowered the opening price for the stock. Sabre's IPO came as the hot market for startup stocks shows signs of cooling.

Thomas Klein, Sabre's CEO since last August, said that weakness in the tech sector played a role in the company's decision to trim the IPO, but he said there was no consideration of postponing the offering.

"We put what we thought was the appropriate number into the market," Klein said in an interview. "We think we'll be attractive over time, and we sold a small amount of the company today."

Private-equity owners TPG and Silver Lake will keep about 80 percent of the company, which the IPO valued at around $4 billion.

The shares, trading on the Nasdaq stock market under the ticker symbol "SABR," rose 50 cents to close at $16.50. Broader indexes were mixed.

The IPO market is off to its best year since 2000, according to financial data provider Dealogic, but the 6 percent decline in the Nasdaq composite index since early March has weakened demand for new offerings.

Nick Einhorn, an analyst with Renaissance Capital, an investment adviser and research firm that focuses on IPOs, said the last 10 U.S. initial offerings priced below the midpoint of their expected range.

Hot IPOs often jump 10 percent or more in their first day of trading — shares of Chinese social media company Weibo Corp. soared 19 percent on their debut Thursday — but Sabre's more modest increase was understandable since it's larger and older than many companies that float offerings, Einhorn said.

"The fact that the stock traded up means that they did an OK job pricing it," he said.

Sabre owns online travel company Travelocity, which competes with Expedia and Priceline. It also sells software and services to link airlines, hotels and cruise lines with travel agencies to buy and sell tickets. In that business, it competes with Atlanta-based Travelport and Spain's Amadeus.

The Southlake, Texas-based company said that it raised $588 million after underwriting expenses, pricing 39.2 million shares at $16 each. The banks managing the deal have options to buy more shares. On April 4, Sabre indicated that it expected to offer 44.7 million shares at between $18 and $20 each.

Sabre has lost money each of the last five years. Last year, it posted a loss after paying preferred dividends of $137.2 million on revenue of $3.05 billion. Revenue was up nearly 3 percent from 2012, according to regulatory filings.

Klein said the company will benefit from global growth in travel by selling software to help customers "solve their biggest problems, like the logistics of running an airline every day."

Sabre scored a big win in January when American Airlines Group Inc. picked it to build the reservations system that it will use after American and US Airways are fully combined.

Sabre started as the reservations department of American, which spun it off in 2000. TPG and Silver Lake bought Sabre in 2007 for $4.5 billion and took it private.
 

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