Branson and Delta to inject £400m into Virgin Atlantic to survive Omicron slump
Restrictions on long-distance flights between the UK and SA among setbacks
Virgin Atlantic Airways owners Richard Branson and Delta Air Lines agreed to provide a £400m capital injection into the UK carrier to see it through the latest slump in global travel.
Branson’s Virgin Group will contribute £204m of the funding and Atlanta-based Delta the rest, allowing them to maintain their current holdings of 51% and 49%, respectively, Virgin Atlantic said in a statement on Monday.
The financing will help bolster Virgin Atlantic’s balance sheet as the Omicron variant of Covid-19 threatens to strangle off a revival in long-haul travel. Bloomberg reported last month that the company was exploring fundraising options to help tap what was expected to be a rapid rebound in transatlantic demand after the US eased border curbs. Since then, the new strain has caused people to delay booking flights and governments impose fresh restrictions.
“Virgin Group and Delta Air Lines, and our creditors, have been a source of unwavering support,” CEO Shai Weiss said in the release. He said that Virgin Atlantic sees a return to sustainable profitability in 2023, driven by improved demand and £300m of savings already achieved.
Delta said earlier that it would invest $1.2bn in three partner carriers, building a stake of 20% in Grupo Aeromexico SAB and a 10% position in Latam Airlines in addition to the Virgin Atlantic financing.
Virgin Atlantic said agreements with creditors will deliver a £200m reduction in its cash burden through 2024, while credit-card processing firms are continuing to show support. The airline said that aircraft deliveries through the second quarter of 2024 are fully financed.
Virgin Atlantic had earlier in the year considered listing on the London Stock Exchange, before pushing that plan into 2022 to focus on rebuilding its business amid what appeared then to be a strengthening global market.
Bookings for Easter and summer of next year are “robust”, the statement said.
The carrier averted collapse in 2020 with the support of a £1.2bn rescue package from owners and lenders after the UK government refused it access to state funds.
The long-distance flights in which Virgin Atlantic specialises have lagged behind shorter ones in recovering from the pandemic, with the emergence of the Omicron strain the latest setback as it effectively shut down travel between the UK and SA, a market in which Virgin is a major player.
Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com
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