BACOLOD

Philippine airline Cebu Pacific flies high in IPO

MANILA, Philippines — Budget airline Cebu Air Inc. gained more than 6 percent in its Philippine stock market debut Tuesday after raising at least $539 million from an initial public offering — the biggest ever for a low cost carrier.

Philippine Stock Exchange Chairman Hans Sicat said he hoped the listing — also the biggest ever in the Philippines in dollar terms — would spur growth in the country's tourism and aviation industries, which still lag behind its Southeast Asian neighbors.

The airline recently made headlines with a YouTube video of flight attendants dancing to music by Lady Gaga to keep passengers from snoozing through in-flight safety demonstration. The attendants danced again Tuesday on the floor of the stock exchange before trading opened.

Cebu Pacific, as the airline is known, sold 186.6 million shares in its IPO at 125 pesos ($2.90) each. Some 28 million overallotment shares are also expected to be sold, which will raise the total proceeds.

The shares closed Tuesday up 6.4 percent at 133 pesos.

Cebu Pacific President Lance Gokongwei said his company aims to increase the number of passengers from 10.7 million this year to 20 million by 2014 with the delivery of 24 new Airbus aircraft over the next four years.

Within the next 12 months, the airline will bring in eight new Airbus A320s, including three before the year's end, to increase capacity by about 30 percent, he said. The airline currently flies to 33 domestic destinations and 16 cities in Southeast Asia, China, Japan and South Korea.

He said that new destinations could include Tokyo, Nagoya and Fukuoka in Japan, Busan in South Korea and three major cities in China aside from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Also on the list are Bali, Indonesia; Khaoshung, Taiwan; and Hanoi, Vietnam.

Cebu Pacific flew more passengers than the country's flag carrier Philippine Airlines in the first half of the year. Gokongwei said the airline holds half of the domestic market, which supplies 62 percent of its earnings, and 15 percent of the international market, which accounts for 38 percent of its revenue.

"So just following the natural progression in market share dictates that we will grow faster internationally than domestically," he told reporters. (AP)

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