Shares of Branson-backed Virgin America start trading with tailwind from airline industry

IndustrialsAssociated Press

Virgin America begins selling shares to the public on Friday, and the timing of the IPO could hardly be better.

Airlines are reaping huge profits thanks to full planes, rising revenue and falling fuel prices. After years of losing money, Virgin America is now profitable.

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The Richard Branson-backed airline is pricing the shares at $23, near the middle of its announced range of $21 to $24 each, which will raise more than $300 million before expenses. They will trade on the Nasdaq stock market under the ticker symbol "VA."