July 24, 2020 / 12:49 PM / in 19 days

British Airways owner considers 2.8 billion euro share issue to prop up finances

LONDON (Reuters) - British Airways owner IAG (ICAG.L) said on Friday it is drawing up plans for a possible rights issue of up to 2.75 billion euros (2.51 billion pounds) to strengthen its balance sheet.

International Consolidated Airlines Group made the statement after Reuters reported that it was planning a rights issue of up to 2.5 billion euros, citing three sources.

IAG’s share price has lost 66% of its value since the start of the year, as global air travel came to a halt during the coronavirus crisis. On Friday its stock fell more than 4% following the Reuters story on the rights issue.

IAG said that no final decision has been made on whether or when to proceed with the rights issue, where new shares are offered to existing shareholders at a discount.

Two sources had earlier told Reuters that the company was targeting the end of the summer for the capital raise, which would keep the business afloat and avoid a government bailout.

“Being a rescue deal, investors will undoubtedly prefer to have more visibility on air traffic during the summer months,” one said.

The Anglo-Spanish group, which also owns Iberia and Aer Lingus, just renewed a 750 million pound partnership multi-year deal with American Express.

With passenger numbers decimated this year and experts forecasting it will be years before they recover, global airlines began sweeping restructuring processes and in many cases sought state assistance.

Air France (AIRF.PA) secured a 7 billion euro aid package from the French government and Germany’s Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) agreed a 9 billion euro government bailout.

IAG, which is also reviewing a planned 1 billion euro acquisition of Spanish carrier Air Europa because of the harsh economic climate, has not asked for a specific government bail-out but has taken advantage of state-backed loan schemes in Britain and Spain. British Airways has warned it needs to cut 12,000 jobs.

Spanish airlines Iberia and Vueling have secured 1 billion euros of government-backed loans in May. BA has also accessed the UK coronavirus corporate finance facility and used the government’s furlough schemes.

IAG is working with U.S. investment banks Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and its corporate brokers Barclays and Deutsche Bank on the plan, the sources said.

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Deutsche Bank and Barclays declined to comment. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley did not respond to requests for comment.

IAG reported a first-quarter operating loss before exceptional items of 535 million euros and expects significantly worse losses in the second quarter, reflecting the full extent of travel lockdowns during the pandemic.

It will release its second quarter results on July 31.

Additional reporting by Arno Schuetze in Frankfurt and Sarah Young in London; Editing by Rachel Armstrong/ Louise Heavens/Susan Fenton

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