Capital Markets

Flying into the Wind, UAL Pays Shareholders

The United Airlines parent's adds a $500 million debt pay-down to a special distribution to investors.
Stephen TaubDecember 7, 2007

Despite cost strains from the rapidly rising jet fuel, UAL Corp., the parent company of United Airlines, announced Friday that it would make a special distribution of $2.15 per share to holders of its common stock, for a total of $250 million, on Jan. 23.

UAL also announced that it paid down $500 million of a term loan under its existing credit agreement.

The company’s stock jumped more than 4 percent in early trading on the news on an otherwise flat morning for the overall market. The special dividend is surprising, given that UAL emerged from a lengthy bankruptcy less than two years ago and that it operates in an especially volatile industry.

What’s more, the current common stock holders who will be receiving the dividend are not necessarily those who lost their money during the bankruptcy.

UAL reported in a press release that both the shareholder distribution and the term loan prepayment follow the approval by United’s lenders of an amendment to the company’s credit agreement. The amendment allows the company to make the $250 million payment to shareholders without any additional prepayment. It also enables the company to take further shareholder initiatives in an amount equal to future term loan prepayments.

Since exiting bankruptcy, UAL has reduced its total net debt by $2.7 billion through the end of the third quarter and generated more than $2 billion in operating cash flow in the first nine months of the year, the company reported. It also plans to invest $4 billion in its business over the next five years.

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