Air Canada raises nearly C$1.6 billion amid COVID-19 pandemic

FILE PHOTO: An Air Canada Boeing 737 MAX 8 from San Francisco approaches for landing at Toronto Pearson International Airport over a parked Air Canada Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in Toronto

(Reuters) - Air Canada said on Tuesday it raised nearly C$1.6 billion ($1.18 billion) by selling shares and convertible debt to strengthen its balance sheet, in a sign investors are willing to back sectors hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

Airlines, including Air Canada, have been among the worst hit as coronavirus-led travel bans resulted in thousands of flight cancellations, forcing carriers to cut jobs and costs as revenue dried up.

The Montreal-based company will use the funds for working capital needs and general corporate purposes. It will allow Air Canada to "better manage debt leverage and risk" as the market recovers, Chief Financial Officer Michael Rousseau said in a statement.

Rousseau said last month Air Canada was seeing fewer cancellations and an improvement in demand for air travel as lockdowns eased. Canada's largest carrier has announced a summer schedule with nearly 100 destinations.

"There's a willingness to lend money to companies that are able to bounce back," said a fund manager, who last month bought back Air Canada stock after selling earlier in the year. The portfolio manager, who was not authorized to speak with media, said the raise shows investors are willing to be patient.

Greg Taylor, a portfolio manager at Purpose Investments, who holds Air Canada shares, said the carrier was prudent to do the raise.

"When you have the ability to raise that much you should do it because you don't know what the uncertainty is going forward," he said.

In a note to clients, Scotiabank analyst Konark Gupta said he believes the worst is over for the airline industry and Air Canada's recent liquidity initiatives position it well during a multi-year recovery.

The airline's shares were up 2.3% by afternoon, while the benchmark Canada share index was up 0.9%.


(Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru, Fergal Smith in Toronto and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by Ramakrishnan M. and Steve Orlofsky)