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WellCare Stock Starts Well

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WellCare Health Plans Inc., Tampa, Fla., got good results today from its first public stock sale.[@@]

WellCare, a company that runs health plans for Medicaid, Medicare and other government programs, raised at least $124 million by selling 7.3 million shares of common stock to the public at an initial price of $17 per share.

Buyers bid up the price during the day, and the stock closed at $19.54 per share. The closing price is about 15% higher than the initial public offering price.

The stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol WCG.

Morgan Stanley & Company Inc., New York, was the lead manager for the offering. The underwriters had an option to buy 1.1 million shares of stock. If they exercised that option, they may have increased WellCare’s IPO proceeds to about $141 million.

WellCare administers health care services for 665,000 residents of Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana and New York.

Soros Private Equity Investors L.P., a Delaware corporation affiliated with George Soros, a billionaire famous for shorting the British pound and backing humanitarian causes, controlled 79% of WellCare’s stock before the IPO and now says it controls 63% of the stock, according to the IPO prospectus.

The chief executive officer, Todd Farha, was an executive at Oxford Health Plans Inc., Norwalk, Conn., from 1995 and 1998 and later ran a doctor referral service for patients suffering from critical illnesses.