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360networks gains moderately in IPO

The company that is building a massive fiber-optic network gains almost 36 percent in its first day of trading.

    Stock in 360networks, which is building a massive fiber-optic network, gained almost 36 percent in its first day of trading today.

    Shares traded as high as $20 and as low as $16.63 in early trading before settling to $19 at the 1 p.m. PT close of regular trading. Almost 26 million shares changed hands.

    see story: Cashing in on fiber optics

    360networks set the price for its initial public stock offering at $14 per share late yesterday.

    The company had previously announced its intention to offer more than 46 million shares at a price between $16 and $18 each. However, 360networks lowered that range yesterday to $12 to $14 per share, ordinarily a sign of tepid demand.

    The new lower range is indicative of the recent stock market turbulence, which has caused some trepidation among investors, analysts said. The roller-coaster markets raise questions about the viability of many upcoming IPOs and already claimed one victim when Web portal AltaVista postponed its IPO plans.

    "There was some question about whether any IPOs could come to market in such an inhospitable environment. It really hit home when AltaVista pulled their IPO," said George Nichols, an analyst at Morningstar.com, an equity analysis firm.

    360networks decided to forge ahead with its IPO plan, "but in order to do so they had to lower the range," Nichols said. "This company would have been a great performer in the IPO market of a couple months ago because it's going to benefit from the explosive growth of demand for data traffic."

    The company has the star power attraction of chief executive Greg Maffei, formerly Microsoft's chief financial officer, as well as an all-star board of directors that includes Dell Computer CEO Michael Dell, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch and Microsoft chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold. In addition, the firm boasts investments from Comcast, Liberty Media, News Corp. and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

    CNET TV: IPO forecast
    CNET TV: IPO forecast


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    360networks already has completed about 15,000 miles of a $1.7 billion, 24,100-mile North American fiber-optic network. The company is one of several relatively new communications companies that are racing to build global fiber-optic networks to carry huge amounts of Internet traffic.

    Notwithstanding the recent market downturn, Wall Street has continued to place high valuations on fiber-optic carriers such as Qwest Communications International, Level 3 Communications and Global Crossing, as well as the optical equipment manufacturers that power those networks.

    Investment banks Goldman Sachs and Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette jointly led the 360networks offering, with several other institutions co-managing the IPO.

    360networks, formerly known as Worldwide Fiber, trades on the Nasdaq stock market under the "TSIX" ticker symbol. The company, based in Vancouver, Canada, trades under "TSX" on the Toronto Stock Exchange.