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Charter gains on heavy volume after IPO

Stock in Charter Communications, owned by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, adds nearly 20 percent following the company's initial public offering.

Stock in Charter Communications, a cable company owned by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, gained nearly 20 percent today following the company's initial public offering.

Charter closed at 22.75 after trading as high as 23.75. More than 115 million shares changed hands, making it the most active issue on the Nasdaq stock market.

The company's early performance,

CNET TV: Charter IPO
CNET TV: Charter IPO
although solid, pales when compared to some of the triple-digit gains by recent Internet IPOs. Yet Charter's "float," or the number of shares issued, was a whopping 170 million. Many Net IPOs are quickly bid higher due to the limited number of shares available.

Still, some analysts had higher hopes for Charter's IPO.

"I wouldn't be surprised if Charter's shares rise 100 to 150 percent on its first day," Jeff Hirschkorn, a senior analyst for IPO.com, said last week. "Paul Allen is building this company from the bottom up and he's doing it with acquisitions."

The company raised $3.23 billion yesterday when it set the price for its massive initial public offering.

Charter sold 170 million shares for $19 each, the high end of the $17 to $19 range that had been set by lead underwriter Goldman Sachs. Charter shares trade under the ticker "CHTR."

The 170 million shares represent all the outstanding class-A common stock outstanding. Allen will hold 50,000 shares of class-B common stock, which gives him 10 voting rights for each share and 95 percent of all voting rights. The class-B shares can later be converted to class-A shares on a 1-for-1 basis.

Allen has earned a reputation as having made astute investments, which are handled through Vulcan Ventures. (Vulcan Ventures is an investor in CNET, publisher of News.com.)

Through Vulcan Ventures, Allen owns stakes in several high-tech companies including High Speed Access (HSA), Wink Communications, WorldGate Communications, and RCN. Allen recently combined several of those properties together with Charter and Go2Net to form Broadband Partners, a joint venture that will create an interactive-TV based broadband portal.

Since acquiring Charter, Allen has been on an acquisition binge, gobbling up smaller and mid-sized cable operators primarily serving the "ex-urban" regions around major metropolitan markets.

When a handful of proposed mergers is finalized, Charter is expected to be the fourth-largest cable company in the nation, serving more than 5 million customers.

Allen plans to use Charter's cable networks to offer multi-channel video programming, high-speed Internet access, local voice telephony, and interactive TV.

Charter generated revenues of $1.43 billion during the six-month period ended June 30 and it posted a loss from operations of $238.7 million.