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Delta shores up liquidity as coronavirus pummels demand, warns of smaller airline

·Anchor
·4-min read
In this article:
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Delta Air Lines (DAL) on Wednesday reported a narrower-than expected loss in the first quarter, with revenues plunging 18% from a year ago as worldwide restrictions linked to the coronavirus pandemic began decimating the travel industry.

Delta’s stock, traded on the New York Stock Exchange, rose modestly in pre-market action from Tuesday’s drop, trading above $23.

Here were the main results from the report, compared to consensus estimates compiled by Bloomberg:

  • Revenue: $8.6 billion vs. $9.19 billion expected

  • Adjusted loss per share: 84 cents vs. 87 cents expected

In a stark memo to employees, CEO Ed Bastian warned that more pain was on the horizon.

“The second quarter will be worse. The decline in travel has reduced our expected revenues for the period by $11 billion, or 90 percent, compared to a year ago,” Bastian said.

He voiced confidence that people will begin to travel again, but cautioned that layoffs could be coming as Delta looks at shrinking its workforce.

“We don’t know when it will happen, but we do know that Delta will be a smaller airline for some time, and we should be prepared for a choppy, sluggish recovery even after the virus is contained,” he added.

With the COVID-19 crisis gripping the world, Delta and its airline peers have been forced to take a number of steps, such as making steep cuts to capacity and making significant travel concessions to flyers.

Delta has also taken aggressive steps to conserve cash, ending the quarter with $6 billion in unrestricted liquidity. The company expects that amount to rise to $10 billion by the end of Q2.

According to CFO Paul Jacobson, “we were burning $100 million per day at the end of March [but] decisive actions” taken by the company will cut that amount in half by the end of the second quarter.

Those steps include grounding 650 aircraft, more than two-thirds of Delta’s fleet, and instituting a company-wide hiring freeze as well as offering voluntary leave options. Delta employs 90,000 people and 37,000 have taken short-term unpaid leave to help get through the crisis.

United Airlines (UAL) reported a similar situation this week in a regulatory filing, which contributed to a $2.1 billion loss in the first quarter. The company will report earnings later this month.

Delta says it has already received $2.7 billion from the U.S. Treasury under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The total amount, $5.4 billion, includes a $3.8 billion grant and a $1.6 billion low interest unsecured loan to maintain employee salaries and benefits through Sept. 30.

In return, the U.S. Treasury will receive warrants to purchase over 6.5 million shares of Delta common stock at a strike price of $24.39, with a 5-year maturity.

American Airlines (AAL) filed a new 8K with the SEC early Tuesday morning stating it had also already received $2.9 billion from the U.S. Treasury under the CARES Act.

Delta has until the end of April to apply for an additional $4.6 billion in secured loans from the Treasury. Bastian is expected to discuss applying for those funds during an earnings report webcast at 10 a.m. EST.

In addition to the government grants and loans, Delta has secured an additional $5.4 billion in new capital which includes $3 billion in new lines of credit. But all of it comes with a heavy price for the airline, which has cut its domestic capacity 80% and its international capacity by 90%.

Bastian says Delta is taking all of these steps to “prioritize the safety of our employees and customers while protecting our business and bolstering liquidity.”

Adam Shapiro is co-anchor of Yahoo Finance’s On the Move.

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