Struggling Norwegian Air to sell more shares, launch bond issue

OSLO (Reuters) – Norwegian Air (NWC.OL) plans to raise up to $316 million through its third share sale in two years and a bond issue to meet the struggling airline’s financial needs through 2020 and beyond, it said on Tuesday. With mounting debts and suffering from the grounding of its 18 Boeing (BA.N) 737 MAX aircraft, Norwegian has replaced breakneck expansion with cost cutting to regain profitability. It also announced a deal with a Chinese firm in October to offload 27 new Airbus (AIR.PA) planes to ease pressure on its finances and avoid becoming the latest airline to collapse. But the new share issue shows Europe’s third-largest budget airline by passenger numbers still needs more cash. “After the completion of the transactions, Norwegian is fully funded through 2020 and beyond based on the current business plan,” Norwegian said in a statement, issued after the stock market closed. It said it was considering a private placement of up to 27.25 million new shares and a bond issue of up to $175 million. Together the deals could raise close to 2.9 billion crowns ($316 million) if the shares are sold at current market prices, a Reuters calculation showed. But it might have to sell at a discount. “The proceeds … will secure required financing of working capital during the winter season and create headroom to financial covenants while completing the strategic transformation of the company,” it said. The airline also reported monthly figures showing passenger traffic declined in October from a year ago, the first such fall on record as the carrier cut loss-making routes from its network. The data had been scheduled for release on Wednesday. Overall traffic, a measure of distance flown and the number of people carried (RPK), fell 3% year on year in October, the company said. Analysts in a Reuters poll on average had expected a fall of 12.1%. Norwegian’s RPK had until now risen every month since it was first listed on the Oslo Bourse in 2003, its records show. Trimming capacity at a rate of 5% year on year helped it fill each aircraft, raising the so-called load factor to 87.1% from 85.0% in October 2018, in line with a Reuters poll. Its yield, or income per passenger carried and kilometre flown, rose to 0.40 crown in October from 0.38 crown a year ago, also in line with expectations.

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