Virgin Trains USA postpones IPO… for now

Its South Florida stations have spurred nearby development and investment, including MiamiCentral

Feb.February 12, 2019 05:30 PM

Richard Branson and a Brightline train (Credit: Getty Images and Wikipedia)

Virgin Trains USA postponed its much anticipated initial public offering, claiming it found “alternative financing” to stay private.

The high-speed train company, still operating under the name Brightline, runs from West Palm Beach to Miami and also owns real estate properties near its stations. The company previously said its IPO could be worth up to $619 million. Its IPO was expected to be priced on Tuesday.

“As we explored a public offering, a number of alternative financing sources became available that allow us to keep the company private and meet our growth strategies,” said Brightline’s Ben Porritt, senior vice president of corporate affairs for Virgin Trains USA, in a statement.

Virgin Trains USA had expected its initial stock price to be between $17 and $19 per share.

Bloomberg News, which reported the news first, said the company could still file its IPO later in the year.

The stock was projected to be traded on the Nasdaq stock exchange under the ticker symbol VTUS, according to a filing last month with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Virgin Trains is backed by Fortress Investment Group, a private equity firm.

The company operates between Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach, and is planning to add stops in Orlando and Tampa Bay in coming years.

Its South Florida stations have spurred nearby development and investment, including surrounding its MiamiCentral, a mixed-use train station with office, retail and residential components. Earlier this month, an investment group closed on a portfolio of apartments about three blocks away in Overtown, betting on the properties’ proximity to MiamiCentral and the area’s Opportunity Zone status.

Virgin Trains reported its financials and its ridership in its prospectus filed with the SEC. The company operated at a loss of $87.1 million during the first nine months of 2018. The company reported a big uptick in ridership, however, jumping 50 percent to 239,000 passengers in the fourth quarter of 2018 compared to the previous quarter.

Last September, Virgin Trains announced plans to acquire DesertXpress Enterprises for about $120 million that will run from Las Vegas to the Los Angeles area.

In November, Brightline announced Richard Branson’s Virgin Group will provide a minority investment and form a strategic partnership with the high-speed passenger rail company.

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