Norwegian Air shares hit as travel slump puts liquidity on radar

Analysts warned that airline could be particularly vulnerable given high debt burden

Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

 

Norwegian Air’s shares lost a quarter of their value on Friday on concerns about its ability to weather a dramatic drop in global travel as the coronavirus spreads.

Pareto Securities cut its rating on the airline’s stock, saying it was concerned about weak cash reserves and the risk that it may have to issue new shares to shore up its finances.

ABG Sundal Collier also cut its rating on the stock, from hold to sell, saying the firm was low on cash and in danger of breaching its loan covenants in the second quarter of 2020.

Norwegian Air said on Friday it had sold over two-thirds of its available seats for March and that the situation was “challenging” and “changing constantly”.

Analysts have warned that Norwegian, which has expanded the low-cost carrier model to long-haul flights, could be particularly vulnerable due to its high debts.

ABG Sundal Collier forecasts Norwegian will have a cash balance at the end of the first quarter of 1.2 billion crowns (€114 million) and at the end of the second quarter of 0.9 billion crowns.

“Too low, in our view. This means we expect Norwegian to raise new equity,” it said.

The airline has already raised 5.4 billion Norwegian crowns via three share issues in two years, as well as a convertible bond, to help shore up its finances.

15-year low

The airline’s shares hit a 15-year low on Friday, down 95 per cent from their 2015 peak, and the company’s market capitalisation is now 1.95 billion Norwegian crowns.

Debts and liabilities amounted to 81.2 billion Norwegian crowns at the end of 2019, while cash and cash equivalents stood at 3.1 billion crowns.

In 2018, Norwegian rebuffed takeover offers from Aer Lingus’ parent company IAG, which has since said it was no longer interested in buying the ailing carrier.

Norwegian scrapped its 2020 earnings outlook and cut some transatlantic flights on Thursday, blaming the coronavirus outbreak.

The stock has fallen almost 70 per cent since the start of February, making it the hardest hit among European airlines, as the virus spread to Europe and the United States, forcing airlines to cut flights and costs and warn of a hit to earnings.

“There is clearly a risk for all the airlines, but we see Norwegian with a slim cash buffer perhaps at a (bigger) risk,” Pareto Securities analyst Kenneth Sivertsen told Reuters, pointing out that it may require new equity.

He cut the stock to “hold” from “buy” and slashed its price target to 15 crowns from 50. – Reuters