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J. Crew IPO Looks Sharp

Updated from 8:17 a.m. EDT

Preppy clothes dealer J. Crew (JCG) had a dashing debut Wednesday, with shares jumping nearly 25% on their first day of trading.

The company priced 18.8 million initial shares at $20 apiece Tuesday night, topping the expected range of $15 to $17 a share and raising about $376 million for itself and its private-equity backers. The offering cut the ownership stake of major shareholder Texas Pacific to about 40% from just above 50%.

By late morning, the stock had shot up $4.92 to $24.92, with more than 15 million shares changing hands.

The specialty apparel chain run by Mickey Drexler, whose fashion sense gave rise to the Gap (GPS), reported a 36% jump in same-store sales in the first quarter. That contrasts sharply with Gap, where sales have been in a tailspin for years in Drexler's absence.

Despite having suffered losses in four of the past five years, J. Crew is currently profitable. Its first-quarter operating income increased by $5 million to $28 million, and its net income jumped 60% to $8 million from $5 million a year earlier. Total sales for the period rose 15% to $167 million.

Proceeds of the offering will be used to repurchase preferred shares. The company, which sells upscale casual clothing in about 200 stores and through catalogs and its Web site, sold the deal through underwriters led by Goldman Sachs and Bear Stearns. J. Crew had previously filed to go public back in August, but later delayed the deal without explanation.

Wednesday was set to be rich in IPOs, with seven stocks slated to begin trading. Of those, only J. Crew, window maker PGT (PGTI), biotech outfit Replidyne (RDYN) and data-gathering software maker Omniture (OMTR) made it to the market.

PGT shares priced at $14 each, below the projection of $16 to $18. The stock was recently up 40 cents to $14.40. Omniture shares priced at $6.50, also below their expected range of $7.50 to $9. The stock sank 40 cents to $6.10. Replidyne shares, which were cut to $10 from an expected range of $14 to $16, were unchanged at $10.

Wintegra reportedly delayed its IPO, while Gordon Biersch Brewery and Pacesetter Capital remain on deck for this week.

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