Boeing Files to Issue New Bonds, Hinting At Major New Financing

Credit: Boeing

Boeing on April 30 filed regulatory notice that it could raise an undetermined amount of new debt financing through newly issued bonds, coming a day after the company’s chief executive outlined a grim outlook, albeit better than feared by the marketplace.

Boeing did not initially specify how much it could raise in new bonds in the Securities and Exchange Commission prospectus it filed. However, several business news outlets reported the company could seek $20-25 billion.

That would come on top of a nearly $14 billion credit facility Boeing drew down in mid-March as the novel coronavirus outbreak spread around the world. Total debt was $38.9 billion as of the end of March, up from $27.3 billion at the end of 2019.

Boeing said the notes will be issued in multiple parts with maturities ranging from 2023 to 2025, 2027, 2030, 2040, 2050 and 2060—so the latter entailing a 40-year bond. “We intend to use the net proceeds from this offering for general corporate purposes,” according to the prospectus.

The prospectus comes a day after Boeing CEO and president David Calhoun and CFO Greg Smith told analysts and reporters that the embattled OEM, already suffering from the total halt of its 737 MAX narrowbody, saw a pathway to returning to pre-pandemic growth in three-to-five years. Boeing stunned Wall Street and the aerospace world in March when it openly asked for at least $60 billion in federal aid for itself and its suppliers as passenger air traffic collapsed from the coronavirus outbreak.

In teleconferences April 29, the executives asserted liquidity concerns have eased since then, thanks to the U.S. government passing the CARES Act with its corporate loan and grant programs, as well as a separate but related program at the U.S. Federal Reserve to backstop corporations. Calhoun and Smith said they now believe they have options to tap a mix of financing sources to meet Boeing’s needs. They did not provide details, and they acknowledged it would take longer to repay growing debt with changed aviation industry dynamics.

Several Wall Street firms have estimated that Boeing could be headed for total debt around $45 billion. 

Late April 29, S&P Global Ratings downgraded Boeing’s corporate debt profile to the bottom investment grade, next would be speculative or junk groupings. The firm expects Boeing’s free cash flow to be an outflow of $19-20 billion this year and then an inflow of $9-10 billion in 2021. This compared to S&P’s previous forecast for an outflow of just $11-12 billion in 2020 and an inflow of $13-14 billion in 2021.

“The significant decline is due to lower aircraft deliveries and aftermarket sales resulting from the impact of the coronavirus on air travel, lower deposits from airlines as they try to conserve cash, and the costs of operational disruptions,” S&P said. “This is only partially offset by the company’s efforts to reduce costs to match lower demand.”

Regarding the new bonds, Fitch Ratings said it expects Boeing’s financial metrics will be “very weak” for its current BBB rating in 2020, but the OEM has sufficient liquidity, including the new bond issuance, to withstand the downturn. Fitch, which last downgraded Boeing on March 24, expects Boeing will be able to rebuild its credit metrics to levels consistent with a ‘BBB’ category rating by the end of 2021 or early 2022.

Moody’s Investors Service agreed that Boeing has a “very strong business profile” to warrant keeping barely investment grade on the new bonds.

Michael Bruno

Based in Washington, Michael Bruno is Aviation Week Network’s Executive Editor for Business. He oversees coverage of aviation, aerospace and defense businesses, supply chains and related issues.