Like last week and the week before that, this week carries with it only a single IPO in the pricing queue. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as this IPO market is still learning to walk on what someone recently said are "wobbly legs." Actually, I disagree with that characterization because I appreciate the slow buildup of the calendar. Given the almost universal state of caution in the markets, it's probably the smartest way we can proceed.

I mentioned a deal this week, didn't I? Have a look at Universal Hospital Services (UHOS:Nasdaq), an IPO out of co-lead managers UBS Warburg and U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray. Piper Jaffray, as you probably remember, brought us the TheraSense ( THER) IPO on Friday. That deal traded to a 30% premium in its first session, and this morning is trading even higher. Also on the UHOS prospectus cover is CIBC World Markets.

Universal Hospital Services is a provider of movable medical-equipment outsourcing services to the health care industry. The company falls into a sort of crossover category of medical services and equipment leasing. This makes solid comps tough to find, at least in the universe of recent IPOs. I'll give you my best shot, however, and compare it to Alliance Imaging ( AIQ). Alliance, which went public in July at a price of $13, provides mobile MRI services on a shared-use basis.

Universal Hospital has shown strong revenue growth since at least 1998. Revenue for the six months ended June 30, 2001, came in at $60.8 million. Net losses for that period were $1.69 million. This compares with revenue of $51.9 million and a net loss of $2.58 million for the same period last year. Overall, the financials show an improving situation for the company, but will investors pay up for the stock?

My take is that the deal will trade flat to up a small premium immediately, and then fade below its issue price. Longer term, the stock will be gauged by the market according to its quarterly results.

Next week I see three IPOs on the calendar, with the possibility of at least one more being added by Friday. While not a huge number of deals, this is an improvement over the past few weeks. Keep your fingers crossed and let's hope that things continue to move along.

Trade safe.
Ben Holmes is the founder of ipoPros.com, a Boulder, Colo.-based research boutique (now a wholly-owned subsidiary of TheStreet.com) specializing in the analysis of equity syndicate offerings. This column is not meant as investment advice; it is instead meant to provide insight into the methods of new and secondary offerings. Neither Holmes nor his firm has entered indications of interest in any of the companies discussed in this column. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Holmes appreciates your feedback and invites you to send it to Ben Holmes.

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