Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

UPS Shares Skyrocket In First Day of Trading

NEW YORK -- It has been in business for 92 years and delivers more than 12 million packages each business day, but until Wednesday nobody really knew what United Parcel Service was worth.

On Wednesday, investors said the Atlanta-based company is worth almost twice as much as General Motors, more than three times as much as Merrill Lynch and nearly six times as much as Federal Express, which, with the exception of the U.S. Postal Service, is its biggest competitor.

The market also sent a ringing, late 1990s message to the 125,000 shareholders of what up to now has been a privately held company. Most of these shareholders are current or retired UPS employees, and they are now poised to cash in on the decision to go public.

"Now I'm going to have to get a broker," said Miquel Cartagena, 35, a driver in Manhattan who has been a UPS employee for the past 13 years. "I'm looking forward to wheeling and dealing down the road."

In the biggest initial public stock offering ever, late Tuesday UPS priced 109.4 million of its Class B shares - 10 percent of the company - at $50 a share.

Demand for the stock was extremely heavy, and Wall Street had veterans expected the shares would do very well when secondary trading commenced on the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday morning.

But given the size of UPS - it made $1.74 billion last year on revenues of nearly $25 billion - many on Wall Street did not expect UPS stock to skyrocket.

By the end of the day, though, UPS shares had jumped 36 percent from its initial offering price, to $68.25 a share. In less than 24 hours, the public had increased UPS' market capitalization by some $20 billion, to more than $81 billion.

The company's glittering record and its prospects of burgeoning e-commerce opportunities were undoubtedly big selling points with investors.

"This is the last blue chip of the century," said Benn Konsynski, a professor at Emory University's Goizueta Business School and an adviser to UPS. "The market is recognizing them as more than just a transportation company. They are also an extraordinary player in the field of e-business."

Unlike the holders of much of the paper wealth created in the last few years by the Internet, the average UPS stockholder almost certainly never dropped out of Harvard or graduated from Stanford Business School.

Indeed, many UPS shareholders - some 66,000 - work on an hourly basis for the company. Since 1995, these drivers, loaders and handlers have been eligible to buy UPS' voting Class A shares.

Another 40,000 are managers, who at one point in their careers wore the company's signature brown uniform. Even James Kelly, the chairman, began his career 35 years ago with UPS as a package car driver in the company's Metro Jersey District. In all, UPS has more than 300,000 employees.