Airline positions itself for post Covid-19 future
Virgin Atlantic has reached a major milestone towards securing its future today, by announcing plans for a private-only solvent recapitalisation of the airline, following the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global economy, the nation and the travel and aviation industry.
A Solvent Recapitalisation of Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic has taken a big step forward in securing its future, by launching a court backed process as part of a solvent recapitalisation of the airline and holiday business, with a Restructuring Plan that once approved and implemented, will keep Virgin Atlantic flying.
The Restructuring Plan is based on a five year business plan, and with the support of shareholders Virgin Group and Delta, new private investors and existing creditors, it paves the way for the airline to rebuild its balance sheet and return to profitability from 2022.
The recapitalisation will deliver a refinancing package worth c.£1.2bn over the next 18 months in addition to the self-help measures already taken, including cost savings of c.£280m per year and c.£880m rephasing and financing of aircraft deliveries over the next five years.
- Shareholders are providing c.£600m in support over the life of The Plan including a £200m investment from Virgin Group, and the deferral of c.£400m of shareholder deferrals and waivers
- Virgin Atlantic welcomes new partner Davidson Kempner Capital Management LP, a global institutional investment management firm which is providing £170m of secured financing
- Creditors will support the airline with over £450m of deferrals
- The airline continues to have the support of credit card acquirers (Merchant Service Providers) Lloyd’s Cardnet and First Data.
To secure approval from all relevant creditors before implementation, the Restructuring Plan will go through a court-sanctioned process under Part 26A of the Companies Act 2006 (the “Restructuring Plan”). With support already secured from the majority of stakeholders, it’s expected that the Restructuring Plan and recapitalisation will come into effect late Summer 2020. Virgin Atlantic was advised by Houlihan Lokey and Allen & Overy.
Decisive action underpins the Restructuring Plan
Global aviation was one of the first industries impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and will be one of the last to fully recover. From the start, the airline took decisive action to ensure its survival. In March, the Leadership Team took voluntary pay cuts and since April, more than 80% of the workforce has benefitted from the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, supporting efforts to preserve cash and minimise costs. In Q2, flying fell by 98% and in the second half of 2020, capacity is expected to reduce by at least 60% compared to 2019, with pre-crisis levels of flying unlikely to return until 2023. With the suspension of passenger flying in April, the airline delivered an unparalleled network of cargo-only flying, operating more than 1400 cargo flights in April, May and June.
In May, the difficult decision was taken to reshape and resize in order to emerge from the crisis sustainably profitable, and regrettably the airline had to reduce the number of people it employs by 3,550 across all functions.
Having closed its London Gatwick base, while retaining a slot portfolio at the airport to protect opportunities for future growth, leisure flying is now consolidated at London Heathrow and Manchester. By 2022 Virgin Atlantic will fly the same number of sectors as 2019 despite its smaller scale, demonstrating productivity and efficiency improvements. The airline will operate a streamlined fleet of 37 twin engine aircraft following the retirement of 7 x 747s and 4 x A332s by Q1 2022, with rescheduled delivery of outstanding A350s and A339s.
Returning to the skies
From 20 July Virgin Atlantic will restart passenger flying and has a vital role to play in supporting the UK economy as it recovers from the impact of the pandemic. Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Atlantic Holidays will continue to support global supply chains and flying customers safely to the places they love to travel. While demand will be slow to recover, Virgin Atlantic will ensure its customers always feel confident to fly by continuing to prioritise the health, safety and security of its people and customers throughout their journey. Sustainability remains central to the airline, and its simplified fleet will be 10% more efficient than it was pre-crisis.
Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic commented: “Few could have predicted the scale of the Covid-19 crisis we have witnessed and undoubtedly, the last six months have been the toughest we have faced in our 36-year history. We have taken painful measures, but we have accomplished what many thought impossible. The solvent recapitalisation of Virgin Atlantic will ensure that we can continue to provide vital connectivity and competition to consumers and businesses in Britain and beyond. We greatly appreciate the support of our shareholders, creditors and new private investors and together, we will ensure that Virgin Atlantic can emerge a sustainably profitable airline, with a healthy balance sheet.
“Once our plan is approved, we will continue to focus on providing our customers with the service they have come to expect. Despite the incredible efforts of our teams, through cancelled flights and delayed refunds we have not lived up to the high standards we set ourselves, but we will do everything in our power to earn back their trust.
“While we must not underestimate the challenges ahead and the need to continuously respond to this crisis, I know that now, more than ever before, our people are what sets us apart. I have been humbled by their support and unwavering solidarity throughout. The pursuit of our vision continues and that is down to each one of them.”
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About Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic was founded by entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson 36 years ago with innovation and customer service at its core. In 2019, Virgin Atlantic carried 5.4 million customers and was voted Britain’s only Global Five Star Airline by APEX for the third year running in the Official Airline Ratings. Headquartered in London, Virgin Atlantic and its holiday business, Virgin Atlantic Holidays, employs 6,500 people worldwide, serving 25 destinations across four continents. Sustainability remains central to the airline and in September 2019, Virgin Atlantic took delivery of its first Airbus A350-1000 aircraft - helping to transform the fleet into one of the quietest and most fuel efficient in the sky. By 2022, the airline will operate a streamlined fleet of 37 twin engine aircraft following the retirement of its 747s and A332s, and its simplified fleet will be 10% more efficient than before the Covid-19 crisis.
Alongside shareholder and Joint Venture partner Delta Air Lines, Virgin Atlantic operates a leading transatlantic network between the UK and US with onward connections to over 200 US and international cities. On May 15, 2018 Air France-KLM, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic Limited signed definitive agreements to combine the existing trans-Atlantic joint ventures. The expanded joint venture offers a comprehensive route network, convenient flight schedules, competitive fares and reciprocal frequent flyer benefits, including the ability to earn and redeem miles across all carriers.
For more information visit www.virginatlantic.com or www.virginholidays.co.uk or via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @virginatlantic @virginholidays
About Davidson Kempner Capital Management
Davidson Kempner Capital Management (“DKCM”) is a U.S.-registered global institutional investment management firm with more than 30 years of experience and a focus on fundamental investing with a multi-strategy approach. DKCM and its affiliates currently have over US$35 billion in assets under management with more than 300 professionals in four international offices (New York, London, Hong Kong and Dublin).
 *This figure represents 400 employees who opted to take voluntary severance, plus compulsory redundancies.