Whistler Blackcomb completes public offering 

New independent company trades higher than expected

Shares of Whistler Blackcomb Holdings traded up on the new company's first day on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The company issued a news release on Tuesday afternoon indicating that it has obtained $300 million through an Initial Public Offering (IPO), a process that makes the company available for purchase by the public.

The company sold 25 million common shares at $12 a share for proceeds of about $300 million, money that is expected to help pay off the debt of former parent company Fortress Investment Group.

Shares reached $12.50 early Tuesday, before closing at $12.06.

The IPO means Fortress, through Intrawest, is no longer the majority owner of Whistler Blackcomb.

Nippon Cable owns 25 per cent of the limited partnerships that operate Whistler and Blackcomb. The other 75 per cent was owned by Fortress through Intrawest. That 75 per cent stake was transferred to the new company Whistler Blackcomb Holdings Inc. Fortress currently retains about 34 per cent of Whistler Blackcomb Holdings but is expected to reduce its share over time.

The 66 per cent of Whistler Blackcomb Holdings that was available to the public began trading on the TSX Tuesday.

While there has been a lot of interest in the stock price and the dividend yield, less has been made of what it means now that Whistler Blackcomb has severed most of its ties to Intrawest and Fortress. The board of Whistler Blackcomb Holdings includes Bill Jensen, Intrawest CEO, and Wes Edens,  principal of Fortress Investment Group. But it also includes John Furlong, former CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympics and Paralympics and former NHL star Cam Neely, who is originally from Maple Ridge. The board may see additional local representation once the major purchasers of stock are known.

Nathaniel Payne, a former analyst with CIBC World Markets and now coordinator of finance and budget with Simon Fraser University's vice-president, academic, said buyers of Whistler Blackcomb stock likely include institutional and retail investors who are optimistic about the long-term growth of the economy.

"I think that's ultimately people, any investment, whoever they are, who are betting there will be long term pickup," he said. "(They're) optimistic about the Olympics bringing increased traffic. Meanwhile people buying in the short term, they're hoping this winter is going to be a cold winter.

"Ultimately in the short term, the stock will suffer if we have a warm winter where they only get snow for a couple of months and have to make snow. I think that would be a very bad outcome."

Anyone who still wishes to purchase shares in the company can do so by contacting a broker. Under the IPO, an investor would have had to own an account with any of the underwriters assigned to the file, such as CIBC, RBC, Canaccord or Goldman Sachs, but now they can go to any firms handling trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange.



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