Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 6 July 2020

Boeing and its suppliers nearing $60bn rescue deal

Planemaker is said to be looking at government's stimulus measures to see if it can tap into funding lines

Parked planes amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Although there are signs of recovery and stability in oil markets as the travel industry goes slowly back to work, there are still several downsides to bear in mind. Reuters
Parked planes amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Although there are signs of recovery and stability in oil markets as the travel industry goes slowly back to work, there are still several downsides to bear in mind. Reuters

Boeing and its suppliers are closing in on a federal rescue deal that would provide at least $60 billion (Dh220.39bn) to help ride out the coronavirus pandemic.

The aerospace industry, including Boeing, would be eligible to use a slice of the $454bn to be distributed by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin under a $2 trillion economic stimulus package, according to sources. Boeing could also claim part of $17bn in loans for companies deemed critical for national security.

Boeing executives were combing through the measures in the stimulus legislation, which arrived in piecemeal fashion, while evaluating proposals from bankers to line up additional liquidity, the sources said. As the travel market collapsed, Boeing planned for a range of outcomes and even sought advice from restructuring advisers to help understand its options, although such a radical approach was never seriously considered by management.

The Chicago-based manufacturer is expected to focus in particular on the investment-grade debt market once the federal aid terms are clear and the financial strategy is squared away, said the people. The aerospace titan would probably be able to extract more favourable terms from debt investors than from equity investors, the people said.

Boeing shares soared 24 per cent to $158.73, the biggest gain in data going back to 1980. The shares have skyrocketed 67 per cent this week as the market chatter switched to bailout terms instead of more dire scenarios. But the company's shares are still down 51 per cent this year, the worst drop on the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

While US airlines fought for government grants to bolster rapidly dwindling cash, Boeing has a cushion of $15bn to get it through the next few months. How much aid the planemaker takes will vary depending on the terms imposed by the Treasury Department and the strength of capital markets, a source said.

Company executives had lobbied for US government loans or loan guarantees. Debt markets have been difficult for lower-tier investment-grade credit companies like Boeing and inaccessible for junk-rated risks such as Spirit AeroSystems Holding, which makes about 70 per cent of Boeing’s 737 Max jetliners.

“I want them to support the credit market, provide liquidity, allow us to borrow against our future, which we all believe in very strongly and I think our creditors will too,” Boeing chief executive Dave Calhoun said of lawmakers in an interview with CNBC on Tuesday. “It’s really that simple. And then we pay it back as fast as we can. And yes, they collect an interest payment.”

The company opposed reviving deals from the global financial crisis era more than a decade ago, when the US government took some equity stakes as a condition of aid, he said.

Boeing officials have declined to say how much of the requested $60bn the planemaker would take for itself. It said 70 cents of every dollar it receives flows through to a base of mostly US suppliers.

Boeing has already been under withering scrutiny for its handling of the 737 Max crisis. It now faces an outcry from opponents of government bailouts, including one from a longtime ally: Nikki Haley, President Donald Trump’s former ambassador to the United Nations, who resigned from Boeing’s board last week.

But there’s no question of the threat to Boeing from the sudden halt in air travel as consumers isolate themselves at home to slow the spread of the coronavirus. As of Tuesday, about a quarter of the world’s commercial aircraft fleet – almost 6,000 planes – were parked, according to a Vertical Research Partners analysis of Cirium data.

The investment grade bond market displayed a stunning turnaround on Wednesday this week following support from the Federal Reserve as 10 issuers priced $23.75bn of bonds with wildly oversubscribed order books.

Before the coronavirus disrupted global airline travel, Boeing had already raised a $13.8bn two-year, delayed-draw term loan with a group of banks to weather the 737 Max grounding and an ongoing production halt. Boeing accessed roughly half of the loan in February, and then tapped the full amount in March as a precaution due to market turmoil. The loan was structured in such a way that it was expected to be fully drawn eventually.

Boeing’s bonds fell over the last month as the coronavirus halted global airline travel and amid a broad sell-off in the credit markets. The bonds began to recover on Wednesday, buoyed by the expectations of federal support. Boeing’s $750 million in 2.95 per cent notes due in 2030 traded at 82.8 cents on the dollar, up about four points from Tuesday but down from 106 in the beginning of March, according to data.

Boeing fell into the lowest tier of investment grade last week after S&P Global Ratings cut its rating to BBB, following Moody’s Investor Services’ Baa1 in January. Fitch Ratings cut the company to BBB on Tuesday.

Updated: March 26, 2020 05:14 PM

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