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Air Canada raises $1.6 billion to mitigate losses during pandemic

The windshield of an Air Canada Express aircraft is covered as it sits parked at the Ottawa International Airport in Ottawa, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, on Saturday, May 16, 2020. Air Canada says it has raised $1.59 billion in share and debt offerings to refill its coffers as cash drains out during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

MONTREAL — Air Canada says it has raised $1.59 billion from share and debt offerings to refill its coffers as cash drains out during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company says it sold 35.4 million voting shares at $16.25 apiece for gross proceeds of $575.6 million.

It also issued $1.02 billion in convertible senior unsecured notes due in 2025, well above its initial plan for about $540 million.

Chief financial officer Michael Rousseau says the financing proceeds help to restore Air Canada’s liquidity strength after confinement measures and border shutdowns “destroyed demand and depleted cash.”

The CFO says a positive reaction from the public markets amounts to “a strong endorsement” of the airline’s strength despite more than $1 billion in losses in the first quarter.

Air Canada says the underwriters exercised their over-allotment option to buy 15 per cent of the shares on offer, and initial buyers of the convertible notes exercised their option to purchase an additional 15 per cent.

National Bank analyst Cameron Doerksen says the company is burning about $20 million per day — $620 million per month — in the second quarter as the bulk of the fleet remains grounded while fixed costs such as plane leases persist.

RBC Dominion Securities analyst Walter Spracklin says liquidity now amounts to roughly $9.7 billion, giving Air Canada “significantly more staying power” during a recession, with a return to break-even cash flow expected in 2022.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2020.

Companies in this story: (TSX:AC)

The Canadian Press