United raises US$1b via first US airline share sale

  • Aviation
  • Thursday, 23 Apr 2020

United Airlines planes sit parked on a runway at Denver International Airport as the coronavirus pandemic slows air travel on April 22,2020 in Denver, Colorado.

NEW YORK: United Airlines Holdings Inc raised US$1bil by selling new shares, stepping up efforts to increase capital to survive a collapse in travel demand.

The company sold 39.25 million shares at US$26.50 apiece, with an option for underwriters to buy an extra 10%, United said in a statement Tuesday.

The price is at the high end of what the stock was marketed at but about 5% below its latest close.

The share sale, the first by a major US airline during the coronavirus pandemic, underscores efforts by carriers to raise additional funds even after the government stepped in with US$50bil in grants and loans.

Passenger totals have fallen about 95% in the US, as the disease and government travel restrictions keep many people at home.

The push for liquidity reflects uncertainty over how long fears of the virus will prompt travelers to avoid flying, further exacerbating the industry’s deep financial troubles. United’s offering may open the doors to similar transactions by other carriers.

A survey commissioned by the International Air Transport Association found that 40% of recent travelers anticipated waiting at least six months after the virus is contained before taking a flight.

United fell 1.7% after the close of regular trading in New York. The stock had plunged 68% this year through Tuesday’s close, the sharpest decline on a Standard & Poor’s index of the five biggest US carriers.

The Chicago-based company has raised billions this year, including US$5bil in federal grants and loans, to help weather the financial turbulence.

United could tap about US$20bil in assets as collateral for additional debt financing, executives said on a conference call with reporters.

Morgan Stanley and Barclays Plc are underwriting United’s share offering. — Bloomberg

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