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Japan Airlines Co. is raising $8.5 billion in its IPO, pricing its shares at the top of its range at $48.

Japan Airlines sets high price for IPO

Associated Press photos
Japan Airlines passenger planes are parked on the tarmac of Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. The carrier is trying to rebound from crushing debt.

– Japan Airlines Co. is raising $8.5 billion in its initial public offering, pricing its shares at the top of its range at $48 – the world’s second biggest IPO this year after Facebook.

The carrier, which went bankrupt in 2010, will be nearly doubling the money the government-backed bailout body pumped in. It announced the pricing Monday, the highest in a range that started from $45, underlining healthy demand for the shares.

The 175 million issues are set to be listed and traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange on Sept. 19.

The carrier, also known as JAL, was long the symbol of Japan’s economic rise.

In recent decades, it was hobbled by a bloated workforce, unpopular routes and safety lapses.

Under the bailout, it has carried out cost cuts and job reductions, trimming a third of its payroll and investing in low-cost carriers, to return to solid profitability – even inviting criticism that the bailout might have been unfair for the rival carrier in Japan, All Nippon Airways, which had made gains when JAL was struggling.

In addition to the bailout, JAL will get giant tax breaks.

Japan Airlines posted a $2.4 billion profit for the fiscal year ended March 2012, an impressive feat considering the battering global carriers have been taking with price competition and surging oil prices.

ANA, in contrast, recorded a $356 million profit for the fiscal year through March.

JAL built its image on a reputation for courteous service and punctuality, but racked up mountains of debt and was forced to apply for bankruptcy.