Rolls-Royce is turning to its shareholders to help ease the cash crunch that has hit the aircraft-engine maker due to the coronavirus crisis.
After flirting with the investment arms of the governments of Kuwait and Singapore, Rolls Royce said Thursday it will offer existing shareholders 10 shares at 32 pence each for every three they own, in what amounts to a 41% discount based on the theoretical post-rights price.
The offering would raise 2 billion pounds toward a 5 billion pound ($6.5 billion) recapitalization plan that also includes a new debt package of up to 3 billion pounds.
The new capital will “improve our liquidity headroom and reduce our level of balance sheet leverage,” Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East said.
As the Financial Times reports, the company “has been driven to the fundraising by the worst crisis to hit the aviation industry. The global collapse in air travel has grounded many of the large aircraft flying its big engines, severely affecting its ‘power by the hour’ model where it is paid for the time its turbines are in the air.”
The “power by hour” model generates around 4 billion pounds a year for Rolls-Royce, with civil aviation accounting for 51% of its revenues.
Rolls-Royce’s net debt has soared and concerns about its finances have prompted speculation about a government bailout but CFO Stephen Daintith said that was “not part of any of our plans.”
The rights issue is the largest capital raise by a non-financial public company in the U.K. since 2010, according to Greenhill, one of the investment banks advising Rolls-Royce.
The recapitalization should give Rolls-Royce “a lot more room for maneuver to help it navigate the COVID crisis,” said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.
But the company’s shares fell 10.2% to 117 pence in trading Thursday, bringing losses for the year to 80%.
“The course of the virus is difficult to predict, as is the future behavior of air travelers even if it is defeated,” BBC News said. “Shareholders being asked to stump up the cash would like some certainty — and that is in short supply.”