Shares of Apollo-backed Athlon Energy surge on debut

Fri Aug 2, 2013 10:39am EDT

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(Reuters) - Athlon Energy ATHL.N became the second Apollo Group-backed company in as many days to make a strong market debut as the oil and gas company's shares rose as much as 34 percent.

Athlon raised $316 million after its initial public offering of 15.8 million shares was priced at the high end of the expected range of $18 to $20 each.

The stock soared to $26.87 shortly after the opening on the New York Stock Exchange, valuing the company at $2.20 billion.

Apollo Global Management LLC (APO.N) has been taking advantage of favorable markets to unload a number of investments this year.

On Thursday, shares of organic grocer Sprouts Farmers Market Inc (SFM.O), also backed by the private equity firm, more than doubled.

Some of Apollo's other big investments that have been taken public or have filed for an IPO include chemicals maker Taminco Corp TAM.N, payment processor Evertec Inc (EVTC.N) and jewelry and accessories retailer Claire's Inc.

Apollo now owns about two-thirds of Athlon's 82 million outstanding shares, valuing its stake at about $1.50 billion. The firm will also hold three of the five board seats.

Fort Worth, Texas-based Athlon's operations include over 200 wells in the Permian Basin of West Texas. The wells produced an average 12,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in June, the company said in a filing. (link.reuters.com/fat79t)

Energen Corp (EGN.N) recently discovered oil near Athlon's acreage, raising the possibility of finds at Athlon-owned fields, said Francis Gaskins, a partner at IPO research company IPODesktop.com.

Athlon has been growing rapidly. Revenue more than doubled to $157.1 million in 2012 from $65.7 million in 2011. The company also posted a profit of $53 million in 2012, compared with a loss of $1.1 million in 2011.

The company was founded in August 2010 by former employees of Encore Acquisition Co, which was acquired by Denbury Resources Inc (DNR.N) in 2009.

Athlon's shares were up 32 percent at $26.38 on the New York Stock Exchange at 1037 ET. About 3 million shares had changed hand.

(Additional reporting by Anil D'Silva in Bangalore; Editing by Don Sebastian)

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