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Shares of Mexican Airline Volaris Soar in Market Debut

18 September 2013

(Reuters) – Shares of Mexican airline Volaris surged more than 15 percent on their debut in Mexico and New York on Wednesday, as investors bet the low-cost carrier would profit from Mexico’s expanding middle class.

The successful Volaris launch – its offer was three times over-subscribed – comes amid a record year for Mexico’s equity capital market.

Volaris’ U.S.-listed shares, which priced at $12 on Tuesday, were up 15.8 percent at $13.90 in early afternoon trading. The Mexican-listed shares were up 15.4 percent at 17.90 pesos. Take-up of the initial public offering was mainly from institutional investors attracted to the idea of exposure to an expanding market, said Chief Executive Enrique Beltranena, in an interview with Reuters.

Volaris’ low-cost policy helps protect the company from economic weakness in Mexico, since even if it loses low-end customers, it can attract business travelers on a budget, Beltranena said. The company has big expansion plans.

“We think we can add 90 cities in Mexico and about 140 internationally” over the next five years, said Beltranena. The international expansion would focus on the United States, but the company could also add destinations in Canada, the Caribbean and Central America, he said. Volaris in 2011 signed a deal with Airbus for 44 A320 planes through 2020.

Mexico’s economy contracted for the first time in four years in the second quarter, hurt by lower government spending and sluggish consumption. Volaris, which launched in 2006 backed by private equity, listed 28 percent of its capital in the IPO.

Not including an overallotment option, Volaris raised $345 million through a sale of American Depositary Shares listed on the New York Stock Exchange and local stock certificates listed in Mexico.

Mexico’s airlines have been recovering from the tough times of the 2009 global recession and the outbreak of H1N1 swine flu virus, and they were buoyed when national carrier Mexicana stopped flying in 2010, buried under a pile of debt.

Volaris’ successful stock offering follows the IPO of Mexico’s largest carrier, Aeromexico, in early 2011. Volaris rival Interjet, Mexico’s No. 2 airline, pulled the plug on its own plans to sell shares later in 2011 because of complicated financial conditions. Interjet had been considering reviving its IPO plans.

Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley and UBS were international joint bookrunners, joined by Santander Investment Securities for the local offering, the company said.
Mexican companies have been raising equity capital at a record rate this year. Through July, companies and real estate investment trusts have raised more than $9.1 billion in equity, greater than any full year on record, according to Thomson Reuters data. (Additional reporting by Michael O’Boyle; Editing by Simon Gardner and Steve Orlofsky).