First Data's Moneygram Payment Systems unit went public last week, raising $174 million.

The 14.46 million shares were priced at $12 and closed their first day of trading at $13.63.

First Data Corp. decided Dec. 4 to cut the originally projected $15- to $17-a-share stock price to $10 to $12. Industry experts said the reduction was meant to create interest among investors who saw First Data dragging its feet for nearly a year before the initial public offering.

"The stock fell hostage to market fundamentals on IPOs," said David L. Menlow, president of IPO Financial Network, Springfield, N.J. "It's lucky to be around. Many companies have been canceling their offerings for the summer. It's a testimony of the strength of the underwriter."

Under terms of an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission, First Data said it would divest the Denver-based Moneygram unit when it acquired Western Union in its $6.7 billion merger with Atlanta-based First Financial Management Corp. in 1995.

The stock sale, through First Data's Integrated Payment Systems Inc., reduces First Data's stake in Moneygram to 13%.

Western Union and Moneygram compete in money transfer services, and Western Union has long been considered dominant.

Moneygram, which is valued at about $225 million, said it handles about 16% of the worldwide money transfer business, while Western Union handles about 81%.

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