Crocs Footwear began to trade on the NASDAQ exchange at an opening price of $30, grossing proceeds of $297 million from a long-awaited initial public offering of 9.9 million shares, but the stock price then fell back to $28.50 a share. The U.S. company, noted for its special plastic clogs, plans to use $148.5 million to pay off $11.7 million in debt and to fund working capital for its rapid expansion. The balance will go to the selling shareholders.

Crocs got a phenomenal market capitalization of $950 million because of strong growth prospects ahead. The company fetched revenues of $108.1 million in 2005 and its net earnings stood at $12.6 million for the first nine months of the year.

Crocs has employed a Dutch veteran of Teva in Europe, Dick Wijsman, to run its sales efforts throughout the continent. Wijsman, a marathon runner who built up the Teva brand in this part of the world, is still handling its distribution in the Benelux countries. He has enlisted distributors and agents all over Europe including Artcrafts, the Italian sub-distributor of Teva. Crocs concept stores are expected to open in Stockholm and Klagenfurt, Austria over the next few weeks.