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Jun 10, 2020

Delta returns to bond market weeks after US$3.5 billion sale

Barry Schwartz discusses Delta Airlines

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Delta Air Lines Inc. is returning to the bond market within weeks of its last visit, looking to support its liquidity and repay outstanding debt.

The carrier is selling five-year unsecured bonds that may yield around 8 per cent, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

The notes are expected to carry high-yield ratings, but the offering is being marketed by investment-grade debt syndicates, the person said, asking not to be identified as the details are private.

Delta borrowed US$3.5 billion in April through a sale of five-year secured bonds, pledged by domestic slots at New York airports and those at Heathrow in London, but Wednesday’s offering comes with no collateral protection.

It’s a sign of how much the market has rallied since then for Delta to merely announce an unsecured offering, especially when the stakes for strong collateral have never been so high.

U.S. airlines have been focused on raising capital since the coronavirus pandemic and related travel restrictions nearly wiped out travel demand in April.

Southwest Airlines Co. has tapped the bond market three times this year, while others like United Airlines Holdings Inc. have sold new shares. JetBlue Airways Corp. is currently marketing a US$500 million term loan.

Delta has raised more than US$10 billion since early March, including proceeds from a bond sale in April and two term loans, according to a filing Wednesday. The US$5.4 billion the company received under the Cares Act includes a US$3.8 billion grant and a US$1.6 billion loan.

The notes sold in April last traded around 107 cents on the dollar to yield 5.4 per cent, according to Trace.

The Atlanta-based carrier has cut operating expenses by 50 per cent versus 2019, in part as more than 40,000 workers have taken unpaid leaves, and expects to reduce daily average cash burn to US$40 million by the end of this month from US$100 million at the end of March.

Delta has slashed flying capacity this quarter by 85 per cent from a year ago and expects revenue to plummet 90 per cent, it said in the filing. Passenger demand across the industry will likely stay below pre-pandemic levels through 2023, according to S&P Global Ratings.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley are managing the bond sale, the person said.

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