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Engines Revved for the Allison IPO

NEW YORK ( TheStreet -- Cloud and social networking companies have been the big winners in the IPO market over the past year, but this week's hottest offering is a good old truck-parts company: Allison Transmission (ALSN).

Allison builds automatic transmissions for heavy-duty vehicles and was picked up from General Motors (GM) in 2007 by private-equity firms The Carlyle Group and Onex.

IPO Desktop President Francis Gaskins expects that it will be an institutional favorite and says it's a buy on the offering, even if it prices at less than the proposed range of $22-$24 a share.

"It most likely will not 'pop,' but it's a good longer-term hold," Gaskins said.

For comparison, another former GM company, Delphi Automotive (DLPH), went public in November 2011 and priced its shares at $22. The stock slid to $19.22 but is now trading at more than $31, meaning it's up nearly 45% from its IPO price.

Allison is completely separate from GM, but investors should be aware that GM's actions could affect Allison.

For example, GM gets to use Allison's brand name on its trucks without paying royalties, but if anything goes wrong with those trucks, Allison's reputation could suffer.

There are also noncompete agreements between the two companies that expire in Europe this year and elsewhere in 2017. For now, Allison doesn't expect GM to try to compete against it.

Allison also has a leading position in the energy sector with pumping equipment and well-servicing rigs. It has benefited from increased demand for natural gas drilling.

Customers include Halliburton (HAL), Weatherford International (WFT) and National Oilwell Varco (NOV).

In addition, Allison provides heavy-duty transmissions used in mining trucks, which has been one of the few sectors to see job growth.

Its competition in this arena is Caterpillar (CAT) and Komatsu.

Allison is also delivering fuel-efficient hybrid transit buses and accounts for 80% of all the units sold in North America in 2011. Municipalities and states have been able to use government subsidies to make these purchases as they look for ways to save money as fuel costs rise.

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