The Big Time Beckons The Small Birds

New routes could mean quick growth--and major airline-style risk

With annual losses that measure in the billions and woes that seem only to multiply, the airline industry is hardly a haven for investors. Yet when a carrier called Comair Inc. had a secondary offering on Feb. 19, to raise money for new jets, investors rushed aboard. The stock, introduced at 231 4, rose to 261 4 on the first day. The issue was oversubscribed, selling 2 million shares instead of the planned 1.7 million. "There was a lot of demand from some very good institutions," says John R. Barber, a managing director at Kidder, Peabody & Co., which co-sponsored the offering. Comair's stock recently traded around 30.

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