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Moelis IPO prices below range, values investment bank at $1.29 bln

* IPO priced at $25 per share, below expected price range

* Raises about $162.5 mln from offering

* To start trading on Wednesday on NYSE under symbol "MC"

* Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley lead underwriters for offering (Adds details about competitors, market conditions)

By Avik Das and Mike Stone

April 15 (Reuters) - Moelis & Co's initial public offering has been priced at $25 per share - below its expected range - a market source said, valuing the independent investment bank at about $1.29 billion.

The company's IPO raised about $162.5 million at that price, which was slightly below the expected range of $26-$29 per share.

Moelis, founded and led by veteran Wall Street investment banker Ken Moelis, is offering 6.5 million shares of Class A common stock. It initially planned to offer 7.3 million shares.

The bank intends to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "MC". The stock is expected to start trading on Wednesday.

Moelis, 55, will retain control of the company after it goes public by holding most of its class B shares, which were not sold in the offering and count for 10 votes per share. Each Class A share is worth one vote.

The dual stock structure has gained popularity since Facebook Inc used it in its IPO in 2012.

Since Moelis will control the firm, the company will qualify for, and intends to rely on, exemptions from certain corporate governance requirements.

As a result, the investment bank's board will not comprise a majority of independent directors following the offering, Moelis had said in its initial IPO filing. (http://r.reuters.com/dyz37v)

Moelis formed the company in 2007 after leaving UBS AG where he was president of UBS Investment Bank and previously joint global head of investment banking.

An MBA from the Wharton School of Business, Moelis started his career in 1981 as an investment banker with Drexel Burnham Lambert, the junk-bond pioneer.

The company, which says it has advised on over $1 trillion of transactions, has 300 advisory professionals in 15 offices across the world.

Moelis counts Yahoo Inc, Natixis SA, Omnicom Group Inc and Hilton Hotels Corp among the clients it has advised on mergers and acquisitions.

The company advised on Warren Buffett and Brazilian private-equity firm 3G Capital's $23 billion acquisition of H.J. Heinz Co and the $35 billion merger of advertising agencies Omnicom and Publicis SA.

While Goldman Sachs & Co and Morgan Stanley are the lead underwriters to the offering, Moelis is also an underwriter.

Moelis' IPO comes at a time when there is a surge in M&As, helping independent advisory firms such as Lazard Ltd, Greenhill & Co Inc and Evercore Partners Inc.

All these boutique investment banks have benefited from conflicts facing their larger rivals as the traditional investment banking model comes under pressure.

In 2013, boutiques and independents earned a combined 30 percent of fees for completed transactions, according to Thomson Reuters, the highest since it began keeping track in 2000. Earnings from fees were up from 25 percent in 2011 and 28 percent in 2012.

In 2013, 80 percent of the top 10 M&A deals included independent advisors, up from just 30 percent in 2003, Moelis said.

New York-based Moelis' net income almost doubled to about $70 million for the year ended 2013, while revenue rose about 7 percent to about $411 million in the same period.

Net proceeds from the offering will be used to make one-time payments to the partners of Old Holdings and for general corporate purposes, the company said.

This week may see other high-profile IPOs, with both Chinese social media company Weibo Corp and Sabre Corp, which owns the Travelocity website, poised for stock market debuts.

However, equity markets have been choppy recently, with both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq last week posting their biggest weekly declines since June 2012.

Ally Financial Inc, the auto lender rescued by the U.S. government during the 2008 financial crisis, went public last Thursday at $25 per share, the low end of its proposed range. Ally's shares closed at $23.93 on Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Editing by Simon Jennings)