Airlines

Sun Country Airlines jumps 51% in trading debut as investors bet on travel rebound

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Key Points
  • Sun Country was the first U.S. passenger airline to go public in more than two years.
  • Budget carriers like Sun Country cater to price-conscious leisure travelers who have led the rebound in demand.
  • Its shares closed at $36.38 in their debut after pricing at $24 a share Tuesday.
Sun Country Airlines Boeing 737 takes off from Los Angeles International Airport on August 27, 2020.
AaronP/Bauer-Griffin | GC Images | Getty Images

Sun Country Airlines shares soared more than 51% in their trading debut Wednesday, signaling strong investor appetite for airline stock as the industry plots a rebound.

"For the first time since the Covid crisis came we've been able to get sales back to what they were at pre-Covid levels, so we're feeling really good about a recovery," Sun Country CEO Jude Bricker said in an interview with CNBC's "Squawk on the Street." He said the new funds will help the airline grow this year and that the airline has resumed hiring.

The budget airline said raised $218 million in an initial public offering. The Apollo Management Group-backed airline is the first U.S. carrier to go public since Mesa Air Group in 2018. It's also the largest U.S. airline IPO since Virgin America's in 2014, according to Dealogic.

Sun Country sold close to 9.1 million shares, which priced at $24, it said late Tuesday. Last week, the Minneapolis-based airline said it expected the shares to price between $21 and $23. The shares closed at $36.38 on Wednesday after debuting under the ticker "SNCY" on the Nasdaq Global Select Market.

Discount carrier Frontier Airlines is reviving its plans to go public, it said last week.

Sun Country caters to sun-seeking vacationers, a segment that has fared better during the Covid pandemic compared with larger airlines whose big international networks and business models rely heavily on corporate travel. Sun Country also has an agreement with Amazon to fly cargo on older narrow-body Boeing 737 planes.

Sun Country was still impacted by the crisis. It swung to a $3.9 million loss last year from net income of $46 million the previous year, according to company filings. Revenue last year fell to $401.5 million from $701 million in 2019.

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Sun Country Airlines CEO: We're well-positioned to take advantage of the travel recovery