DreamWorks Share Price Higher Than Expected

DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. began trading on the New York Stock Exchange today, debuting at $28 per share, significantly higher than the $23 to $25 range the studio projected last week. The initial public offering of 29,000,000 shares of Common Stock, trading under the ticker symbol “DWA,” is expected to raise $812 million for the toon unit.

The offering’s underwriters have a 30-day option to purchase up to 4,350,000 shares of common stock to cover any over-allotments. Goldman, Sachs & Co. and J.P. Morgan Securities Inc. are the joint book-running managers for this offering and the representatives of the underwriters.

While DreamWorks Animation has become independent of DreamWorks SKG, studio principals Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen will retain 93% percent of voting control.

DreamWorks is riding high on the success of Shrek 2 and Shark Tale, not to mention the bundle it’s guaranteed to rake in with the upcoming DVD releases of those films. However, sustained viability on the market will depend on its ability to convince investors that it can consistently deliver hits like rival Pixar.

Lackluster box office for The Road to El Dorado, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas has left scars on DreamWorks’ track record. Perhaps its abandonment of 2D animation has inspired some confidence in the studio’s potential to compete with Pixar, Disney, Fox Animation, Sony Pictures Animation and newly minted Lucas Animation.

The toon arm of DreamWorks is committed to releasing two features per year. In the works are Madagascar and Over the Hedge for 2005, to be followed in 2006 by the stop-motion Wallace & Grommit movie it’s co-producing with U.K. animation house Aardman and Shrek 3.