New York — Former Cendant subsidiary Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc. made its Big Board debut in late June in an initial public offering priced at $17 per share.

The tax prep franchise giant’s IPO of 37,500,000 shares debuted on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol JTX. The offering price was below estimates of $18 to $20 a share. Shares, which dropped slightly below the offering price shortly after opening, rose slightly the next day.

Cendant said that it will use the proceeds, and a special dividend that Jackson Hewitt paid it, to reduce debt, repurchase common stock and invest in strategic tuck-in acquisitions.

With 4,935 franchised and company-owned offices nationwide, Parsippany, N.J.-based Jackson Hewitt ranks as the second largest paid tax return preparer in the United States, behind H&R Block. In 2004, Jackson Hewitt locations filed 3.1 million tax returns, which it estimated to be less than 5 percent of the total U.S. paid preparer industry. According to its prospectus, rival Block has about 21 percent of the market.

JH reported 2004 net revenues of $205.6 million, 43 percent of which came from revenues from franchisees.

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