Virgin Atlantic gets closer to recapitalisation, still staying solvent

Virgin Atlantic has reached a major milestone towards securing its future today, by announcing plans for a private-only solvent recapitalisation of the airline, following the severe impact of the CoVid-19 pandemic on the global economy, the nation and the travel and aviation industry.

Virgin Atlantic Bail Out

A Solvent Recapitalisation of Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic has taken a big step forward in securing its future, by launching a court-backed process as part of a solvent recapitalisation of the airline and holiday business, with a Restructuring Plan that once approved and implemented, will keep Virgin Atlantic flying.

The Restructuring Plan is based on a five-year business plan, and with the support of shareholders Virgin Group and Delta, new private investors and existing creditors, it paves the way for the airline to rebuild its balance sheet and return to profitability from 2022.

The recapitalisation will deliver a refinancing package worth GBP 1.2 billion over the next 18 months in addition to the self-help measures already taken:

  • Cost savings of GBP 280 million per year and GBP 880 million rephasing and financing of aircraft deliveries over the next five years.
  • Shareholders are providing GBP 600 million in support over the life of the restructuring plan, including a GBP 200 million investment from Virgin Group, and the deferral of GBP 400 million of shareholder deferrals and waivers.
  • Virgin Atlantic will get a new partner in Davidson Kempner Capital Management LP, which is providing GBP 170 million of secured financing
  • Creditors will support the airline with over GBP 450 million of deferrals
  • The airline continues to have the support of credit card acquirers (Merchant Service Providers) Lloyd’s Cardnet and First Data.

To secure approval from all relevant creditors before implementation, the Restructuring Plan will go through a court-sanctioned process. With support already secured from the majority of stakeholders, it’s expected that the Restructuring Plan and recapitalisation will come into effect late Summer 2020.

Decisive action underpins the Restructuring Plan

Global aviation was one of the first industries impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and will be one of the last to fully recover. From the start, the airline took decisive action to ensure its survival. In March, the Virgin Atlantic Leadership Team took voluntary pay cuts and since April, more than 80% of the workforce benefitted from the UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, supporting efforts to preserve cash and minimise costs.

In Q2, flying fell by 98% and in the second half of 2020, capacity is expected to reduce by at least 60% compared to 2019, with pre-crisis levels of flying unlikely to return until 2023. With the suspension of passenger flying in April, the airline delivered a network of cargo-only flying, operating more than 1400 cargo flights in April, May and June.

In May, the difficult decision was taken to reshape and resize in order to emerge from the crisis sustainably profitable, and the airline had to reduce the number of people it employs by 3,550 across all functions.

Having closed its London Gatwick base, while retaining a slot portfolio at the airport to protect opportunities for future growth, leisure flying is now consolidated at London Heathrow and Manchester. By 2022, Virgin Atlantic will fly the same number of sectors as 2019 despite its smaller scale, demonstrating productivity and efficiency improvements. The airline will operate a streamlined fleet of 37 twin-engine aircraft following the retirement of 7 Boeing 747s and 4 Airbus A330-200s by Q1 2022, with rescheduled delivery of outstanding A350s and A330-900s.

Returning to the skies

From July 20, 2020, Virgin Atlantic will restart passenger flying. While demand will be slow to recover, Virgin Atlantic will ensure its customers always feel confident to fly by continuing to prioritise the health, safety and security of its people and customers throughout their journey. Sustainability remains central to the airline, and its simplified fleet will be 10% more efficient than it was pre-crisis.

Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic commented

Few could have predicted the scale of the Covid-19 crisis we have witnessed and undoubtedly, the last six months have been the toughest we have faced in our 36-year history. We have taken painful measures, but we have accomplished what many thought impossible. The solvent recapitalisation of Virgin Atlantic will ensure that we can continue to provide vital connectivity and competition to consumers and businesses in Britain and beyond. We greatly appreciate the support of our shareholders, creditors and new private investors and together, we will ensure that Virgin Atlantic can emerge a sustainably profitable airline, with a healthy balance sheet.

Once our plan is approved, we will continue to focus on providing our customers with the service they have come to expect. Despite the incredible efforts of our teams, through cancelled flights and delayed refunds we have not lived up to the high standards we set ourselves, but we will do everything in our power to earn back their trust.

While we must not underestimate the challenges ahead and the need to continuously respond to this crisis, I know that now, more than ever before, our people are what sets us apart. I have been humbled by their support and unwavering solidarity throughout. The pursuit of our vision continues and that is down to each one of them.

Bottomline

It is a great feat that Virgin Atlantic has managed to organise themselves to stay solvent and finance their reopening in the coming days. The newer aircraft of Virgin Atlantic will still be around, and Virgin Atlantic takes to the skies. Mumbai and Delhi will be on the new network still, and that will give me an opportunity, hopefully, to fly them sometime in the future.


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