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Mar 23, 2020

Busmaker NFI slashes dividend, idles factories due to virus fallout

Former high flyer NFI Group hopes to lure back investors

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Canada’s largest busmaker is taking sweeping measures in an attempt to deal with the fallout of the COVID-19 outbreak.

NFI Group Inc. announced Monday it is idling plants in a move that impacts 6,500 workers; laying off 300 employees; slashing its dividend in half and exploring options with its lenders.

In a release, NFI president and CEO Paul Soubry said the action was necessary due to massive global economic disruption.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented global crisis impacting economies around the world, including all of our markets and nearly every supplier partner,” Soubry said. “Our leadership team has managed through several economic cycles in the past and we remain confident we will weather this storm and are committed to ensure that NFI maintains production capacity, long-term backlog and financial liquidity.”

Winnipeg-based NFI also withdrew its financial forecasts for fiscal 2020. The company had forecast an adjusted EBITDA range of $320 million to $350 million for the year. The company has no debt maturing this year.

TD equity analyst Daryl Young, who has a hold rating on the stock with a 12-month price target of $30, said he expects this announcement will put significant pressure on NFI shares.

In a note to clients, Young said the combination of the corporate measures and the potential for transit authorities to shelve plans to buy new busses in the face of reduced ridership and economic uncertainty present near-term headwinds for the stock.

“We believe that there are potential longerterm implications for new orders and margins on both transit and coach given the significantly reduced ridership trends seen during quarantine with ridership down 50 per cent+,” he wrote.

“Although this is temporary, we believe that the financial hardship from reduced fares could lead to the curtailment of near-term capital plans as transit authorities shore up operating budgets.”