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Business briefs: Brightline plans to go public, $100M bond plan for Patel project and more

Margie Manning



Brightline train. Image provided.

Virgin Trains USA LLC quietly filed for an initial public offering to raise up to $100 million.

Virgin Trains is the new name for Brightline, the company developing intercity passenger rail service in Florida, including a potential Tampa-to-Orlando route. Brightline rebranded after Virgin Group made a minority investment in Brightline. The amount of investment was not disclosed.

The IPO filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission late Friday includes business and financial information about the company not previously released, including revenue. For the nine months ended Sept. 30, the company had a net loss of $87.1 million on revenue of $5.2 million. During that period of time, the company operated its trains between Miami and West Palm Beach.

Virgin Trains plans to trade its shares on the NASDAQ stock exchange, but has not yet said how many shares it will offer or priced its stock.

$100M bond plan

Dr. Kiran Patel

A foundation controlled by the family of Tampa health care entrepreneur and philanthropist Dr. Kiran Patel plans a $100 million bond issue to finance a new medical education complex in Clearwater.

The Drs. Kiran & Pallavi Patel 2017 Foundation for Global Understanding has asked the Pinellas County Industrial Development Authority to issue the bonds. The foundation intends to use the bond proceeds along with other funds to pay for the new complex in Clearwater that will house the Nova Southeastern University Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine and other facilities.

The project currently is under construction at 3400 Gulf to Bay Blvd., the former Clearwater Christian College site.

The Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners will hold a hearing on the bond issue request at its Nov. 20 meeting.

Peerfit expands

Tampa digital health company Peerfit is breaking into the consumer market.

Peerfit now is offering a pay-as-you-go subscription for consumers to access their favorite studios and gyms in 46 states.

Ed Buckley is CEO of Peerfit.

Until now, Peerfit has worked with employers and health insurance carriers to give workers access to a network of fitness studios and gyms, using workplace wellness dollars.

“Corporate wellness was stale. As we disrupted that space, it was demonstrated to us that Peerfitters’ friends and families wanted to join them,” Ed Buckley, CEO, said in a press release.

Peerfit now is offering an $8.95 a month subscription for consumers, who have the ability to choose the amount of credits they want to buy through a pay-as-you-go system at negotiated competitive rates.

The shift comes on the heels of major support from high-profile investors, including Tampa Bay Lighting owner Jeff Vinik and Wyc Grousbeck, owner of the Boston Celtics and co-founder of Causeway Media Partners. Peerfit most recently raised $8 million in September.

Student debt hurts entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurs are less likely to start a business when they are saddled with student debt.

Research by the University of South Florida Muma College of Business showed that an increase in student debt from zero to $10,000 reduces the likelihood of entrepreneurship by 1.4 percentage points. “Going from zero to $10,000 in student loans is associated with a 42 percent decline in business income, conditional on starting up a firm,” said Pinshuo Wang, an assistant professor of finance in the Muma College of Business and co-author of a recently published paper on the subject.

Entrepreneurship has been “a strong and reliable engine of economic growth and employment,” the paper said, citing a study by the Kauffman Foundation that said small startups have created, on average, more than a million jobs per year over the past three decades.

The paper also offers some advice on how a budding entrepreneur can escape the debt trap, including keeping current on interest payments and adopting an income-driven repayment plan.

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