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What Investors Need to Know About the OTG EXP IPO

By Eric Volkman – Feb 9, 2016 at 1:23PM

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The airport restaurant specialist will make its market debut on Wednesday.

The world's jet-setters need someone to feed them. Among the latter is a company about to hit the stock market, OTG EXP (NASDAQ: OTG). It's a top player in the very specialized segment of airport restaurants, operating a clutch of food stops -- plus other concessions -- serving air travelers across North America.

OTG EXP's initial public offering will take place on Wednesday. Here's a look at the company and its operations.

Lofty ambitions
All told, OTG EXP has over 220 locations in 23 terminals serving a total of 10 airports. The company is particularly strong in the Northeast, with facilities in all three major New York-area airports (JFK, La Guardia, and Newark), Washington D.C.'s Reagan International, Philadelphia International, and Toronto's Pearson.

Although it makes much of its coin from dining, OTG EXP has extended its brand to include news/general merchandise outlets and gift shops. Both are common store types ubiquitous in airports, and are natural, sensible extensions of the company's core business.

In its prospectus, the company says that it is "transforming" the usually forgettable airport experience by "combin[ing] world-class hospitality and award-winning cuisine with innovative design and state-of-the-art technology." Guided by this mission, it wants to expand into this continent's top 30 airports, measured by total boarding.

The restaurant business isn't for the faint of heart -- it's a low-margin endeavor with many challenges, namely appealing to current consumer tastes, managing a lot of fast-moving inventory, and staying on top of hygiene regulations.

OTG EXP is struggling with this. The business endured losses of $47 million in 2014 and $62 million the previous year. Revenue, however, saw a nice rise over that stretch, growing by 25% to almost $274 million.

Judging by the latter, the company clearly has the appetite for expansion, whether it reaches its goal of occupying space in all 30 of those top North American airports or not.

A thin slice?
But competition is stiff in this segment. Nearly every important chain restaurant operator, big-time coffee purveyor, and donut master serves its wares in the continent's air terminals. And few travelers stay around long enough for more than one meal, cup of java, or pastry.

Take Starbucks (SBUX 0.76%), to name but one of many famous names adorning airport store frontage. On more than a few occasions when flying within, to, or from this country, I've seen lines thick with travelers waiting patiently for their Starbucks lattes and Frappucinos.

They linger for quite some time to get the goods, then sit down for a while to enjoy their beverage and another chapter of their potboiler novel, or perhaps a movie on their smart phone.

Starbucks and numerous other airport real estate lessees are also getting wiser to the value of better design and presentation. The coffee slinger has opened several outlets with cool design touches. Take a gander at its funky teak wood pod design for a cafe in the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airport.

So OTG EXP certainly has its work cut out for it. This isn't an easy or inexpensive business to operate in.

The details
About 32.5 million shares of OTG EXP are to be sold at a price of $16 to $18 apiece. The stock IPOs on Wednesday, and will be listed on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol OTG. Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Barclays, and Bank of Montreal's BMO Capital Markets lead the underwriting syndicate for the issue.

Eric Volkman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Starbucks. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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