Clearwire, the four-year-old broadband wireless carrier backed by Craig McCaw, the billionaire cellular pioneer, raised $600m in an initial public offering priced at $25-a-share, at the top of its estimated range.
In initial trading, the stock traded at or above its offer price valuing the company at over $4bn.
The size of the offering had been increased by 4m share to 24m following strong demand from institutional investors keen to invest in the emerging market for wireless broadband.
Although the company reported a net loss of $284m last year on revenues of $100m, it has been growing rapidly and is one of the few carriers focused on the broadband wireless market.
Clearwire, whose investors include both Intel and Motorola, has been building broadband wireless networks in the US and elsewhere using a 4G technology standard called WiMax which promises desktop broadband speeds to mobile users.
WiMax, which stands for World Interoperability for Microwave Access and offers higher speeds and greater range than WiFi-based networks, is often viewed as a potential competitor for broadband services offered by cable TV and telephone operators but could also be used to supplement these services.
The company, which had filed to go public with an IPO designed to raise $400m in May last year, but scrapped those plans after raising $900m from Intel and Motorola. It plans to use the $559m net proceeds from the IPO mainly to expand its network and acquire additional wireless spectrum.
“As wireless broadband becomes widely available, we believe demand for a broad range of mobile applications will dramatically increase, including demand for e-mail, Web browsing, VoIP telephony, streaming audio and video, videoconferencing, gaming, e-commerce, music and video downloading and file transfers,” Clearwire said in its IPO prospectus.
Clearwire has rolled out its Wimax network in 34 US markets since launching its first service in August 2004. It also offers wireless broadband services in Brussels and Dublin, and ended 2006 with 206,200 subscribers, up from 1,000 at the end of 2004.
To date, the company has racked up an accumulated loss of almost $460m and has said it expects to spend about $4bn through 2013 to roll out its network. In the US, Clearwire faces potential competition from Sprint Nextel, which has announced plans to deploy a nationwide 4G network based on WiMax at a cost of around $3bn.
Sprint Nextel will use infrastructure supplied by Motorola, Intel and Samsung, the South Korean electronics giant which has built a network in South Korea using a form of WiMax called WiBro.
The race to deploy wireless broadband technology comes as industry analysts predict a surge in demand for both fixed and mobile broadband connections. For example, Gartner Dataquest, a leading technology consultancy, predicts that the North American market for WiMax services will grow to 21.2m in 2011.
Following the IPO, Mr McCaw - a Seattle billionaire who started McCaw Cellular, eventually acquired by AT&T - holds a 49 per cent voting stake in Clearwire and a 34 per cent equity stake valued at around $1.4bn.
The share offering was underwitten by a group including Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan.