In the first initial public offering (IPO) to debut this year, Williams Pipeline Partners LP showed modest gains Friday then settled at its opening price of $20/unit by the market’s close — considered a success in current market conditions.

Williams Pipeline was formed last year by Tulsa, OK-based Williams Cos. to own and operate natural gas transportation and storage assets (see NGI, July 23, 2007). The partnership’s initial asset is a 35% interest in William’s Northwest Pipeline, a 3,900-mile bi-directional transmission system that accesses gas supplies in the Rocky Mountains, Canada and the San Juan Basin to serve markets in the Pacific Northwest.

Williams raised about $304.3 million net from the offering after fees and expenses; it had expected the IPO of 16.25 million common units to price between $19 and $21/unit, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The IPO represents a 47.5% limited partner interest in Williams Pipeline, or a 54.6% limited partner interest if the underwriters’ option is exercised in full. Williams Pipeline provided underwriters with the option to buy up to 2.4 million additional units to cover overallotments.

Other IPOs had been scheduled to debut in the past few days, but several have been postponed because of deteriorating market conditions. Among the victims was a master limited partnership planned by Dallas-based exploration and production company EXCO Resources Inc., which withdrew its proposed IPO earlier this month (See NGI, Jan. 14).

“The mere fact that Williams was able to come out and price at the mid-range is impressive,” Scott Sweet, managing director of research firm IPO Boutique, told the Associated Press.

Lehman Brothers, Citi Global Markets and Merrill Lynch & Co. are the joint book-running managers for the IPO. In addition, Wachovia Securities; Goldman, Sachs & Co.; Morgan Stanley; UBS Investment Bank; Banc of America Securities LLC; JPMorgan; Raymond James; RBC Capital Markets; and Stifel Nicolaus are acting as co-managers.

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