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Jan 14, 2020

Boeing approaches Citi for new loan amid Max crisis

RENTON, WA - MARCH 11: A Boeing 737 MAX 8 is pictured outside the factory on March 11, 2019 in Renton, Washington. Boeing's stock dropped today after an Ethiopian Airlines flight was the second deadly crash in six months involving the Boeing 737 Max 8, the newest version of its most popular jetliner. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)s

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Boeing Co. is talking to a group of banks about a potential loan as it deals with a production halt of its grounded 737 Max jetliners, according to people familiar with the matter.

Citigroup Inc. is leading the discussions between Boeing and a small group of banks, said the people, who asked not to be named because the details are confidential. The precise structure and timing of the loan is in flux, but the financing may be an investment-grade term loan, they said.

Representatives for Citi and Boeing declined to comment.

Boeing’s access to the credit markets could soon get more expensive. Moody’s Investors Service placed Boeing’s A3 senior unsecured debt rating on review for downgrade Monday, saying Boeing could face a “costly and protracted” recovery and “heightened operational and financial risk.” Any Moody’s action could give Boeing a rating in the lowest tier of investment-grade rankings. S&P Global Ratings cut the company to A-, the fourth-highest high-grade rank, in December.

The long-term grounding cost the company its title as the world’s largest planemaker on Tuesday after the number of jetliners it delivered in 2019 dropped to less than half of Airbus SE’s tally.

Boeing signed new revolving credit facilities totaling US$9.5 billion in October and almost doubled the size of its existing lender commitments. Investment-grade companies typically leave their revolvers undrawn to serve as a form of back-up liquidity, which is why Boeing might want another form of financing, one of the people said. The company could later decide to pay down any bank debt raised now with a future investment-grade bond sale, the person added.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that Boeing is examining plans to raise more debt to bolster its finances as the Max crisis continues. Boeing could raise as much as $5 billion, according to the Journal.