Boeing’s chief executive David Calhoun said on Monday that the embattled manufacturer of the 737 Max would again turn to capital markets to raise needed cash within the next six months. In the end, it took less than four days to do so.
The aerospace and defence group on Thursday completed a $25bn bond offering to help weather a cash drain of as much as $20bn this year, according to people briefed on the matter.
The offering will add to the almost $39bn in debt the company carried at the end of March.
Boeing said on Thursday evening that the market’s appetite for the bonds eliminated the need for it to seek funding from the US government, a reversal from both Mr Calhoun’s remarks this week and what the Chicago company initially told potential investors.
“The robust demand for the offering reflects strong support for the long-term strength of Boeing and the aviation industry,” the company said. “As a result of the response, and pending the closure of this transaction expected Monday, May 4, we do not plan to seek additional funding through the capital markets or the US government options at this time.”
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The debt issuance comes after Boeing reported a $641m net loss for the first quarter and said it would cut 10 per cent of its workforce and reduce production of most of its commercial aeroplanes.
Boeing is struggling not only with the long grounding of its 737 Max but a sharp drop-off in demand as airlines park jets while waiting for pandemic-wary travellers to return to the skies. Revenue at the manufacturer fell 26 per cent, and the company took charges totalling $2.3bn.
Boeing had already moved to buttress its balance sheet this year by borrowing more than $13bn from Wall Street lenders including JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup. It is also seeking US taxpayer funding, and the $2tn Cares Act passed by Congress last month includes $17bn for companies deemed critical to national defence.
The new bond offering is spread across seven maturities from three to 40 years, with 10-year debt paying interest of 5.15 per cent according to people familiar with the pricing. Strong investor demand allowed the company to increase the size of its borrowing, which was initially marketed to investors at above $10bn.
The company agreed to compensate investors if it is cut to junk, according to a prospectus filed with US securities regulators. Analysts with S&P Global on Wednesday had downgraded Boeing to triple-B minus, the lowest rating in investment grade territory, and warned that the company’s “earnings and cash flow are now likely to be much weaker than we expected for at least the next two years”.
Last year, Boeing issued 10-year debt with a yield of 2.96 per cent, underscoring just how sharply its borrowing costs have risen.
Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo led the fundraising.
David Dohnalek, a senior vice-president at Boeing, told potential investors in the bond offering on Thursday that the company believed “the additional liquidity from this financing and other potential unsecured liquidity sources, including those that may be available from government-sponsored programmes such as facilities from the Federal Reserve, provides us with enough cushion to manage our business for the foreseeable future”.
Higher production rates are the key to higher profits in the aerospace industry, and Mr Calhoun said on Wednesday that when Boeing stabilised production, “we’ll be in good shape to begin that process of returning money to our lenders”.
“Now at what rate we pay it down is the real question,” he said.