Virgin Trains USA announced Jan. 30 that it is launching an Initial Public Offering (IPO) of 28,334,000 shares of common stock. The NASDAQ Global Select Market listing is expected to raise $17 to $19 per share—between $482 million and $538 million—resulting in the company having a market capitalization of up to $3.2 billion.
Last month we reported on the impending demise of the Brightline brand for privately operated passenger trains in Florida, and the takeover by Virgin, at least as far as the public face of the venture is concerned (William C. Vantuono’s initial report on Nov. 16 and this writer’s article concerning the company and its branding on Nov. 26). There have been new developments lately: an initial public offering (IPO) for stock, and the prospect of an additional station near the giant Disney World theme park. The situation facing incumbent management may also be worse than we reported then.
Everybody has been watching Brightline, the bold upstart operator of private-sector passenger trains in a nation where every other scheduled train is operated in the public sector, either by Amtrak or by a local transit authority. There has been a lot of news about Brightline lately, and this writer originally intended to focus on the customer experience and the railroad’s plans for the future.
Florida’s Brightline private higher-speed passenger rail service has a new investor, Virgin Group, headed by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson. Virgin Group will make a minority investment in Brightline, which will be managed and operated by Brightline’s executive team and affiliates of Brightline parent Fortress Investment Group. Brightline will rename itself Virgin Trains USA in November and transition to Virgin Trains USA branding in 2019, “leveraging the Virgin brand and marketing expertise for existing and future developments.”
Only one company submitted a proposal to develop a passenger rail line connecting Tampa and Orlando – but that company is well-known in Florida transportation circles.
Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven L. Abrams was selected Executive Director of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA).
With its funding plans clearer, South Florida passenger start-up Brightline is looking west for its next venture into private high speed rail.
The Florida Development Finance Corp. (FDFC) has approved Brightline’s request to act as a conduit for the issuance of $1.75 billion in Private Activity Bonds to finance construction of rail infrastructure in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Brevard and Orange counties for Phase 2 of the higher-speed passenger rail system.
I’ll keep my remarks brief—which is unusual for me—and let the photos do most of the talking.
Ridership and revenue has steadily increased for the first new private U.S. passenger rail service in decades.