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Nation/World

September 29, 2013

Empire State Building owner going public

NEW YORK — Starting this week, you could own a piece of the Empire State Building.

Or, if iconic New York skyscrapers aren’t your thing, you could bite into Potbelly, a sandwich chain with more than 280 shops.

This week, these and two more companies with familiar names — the owner of budget-friendly clothing store chain Burlington Coat Factory and Re/Max, one of the country’s largest real estate agencies — are expected to sell shares in initial public offerings.

A surging stock market is drawing investors to IPOs.

This past week, 12 companies went public. That’s the most in one week since November 2007, said data provider Dealogic. And there have been 151 IPOs in the U.S. this year, up 47 percent from a year ago, said IPO research firm Renaissance Capital.

A more active IPO market signals confidence in the economy, because buying into IPOs is considered a riskier investment than investing in established companies. Companies that raise money in an IPO can also hire more people and make investments with the cash, helping support economic growth.

And when IPOs gain in their first day of trading, that bodes well for other companies that may go public soon, such as automaker Chrysler and social media company Twitter.

Investors are closely watching next week’s lineup. “Brand recognition will always foster additional attraction,” says Scott Sweet, a senior managing partner at IPO Boutique, which rates IPOs and invests in them.

But worries about a looming government shutdown could hurt demand for upcoming offerings, warns David Menlow, president of IPO analysis firm IPOfinancial.com.

Empire State Realty Trust, which owns the Depression-era building, has had a long road to its public debut.

The New York company first filed for an IPO in early 2012, but was set back by shareholder lawsuits.

A judge cleared the way for an IPO this spring. Investors may buy the stock just to say they own a piece of the historic building, Sweet said.

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