OSLO, April 14 — The shares of Norwegian Air plummeted today, and have now eroded almost their entire value from a 2015 peak, as the airline’s survival depends on creditors accepting a rescue plan proposed last week.
The shares slumped as much as 62.5 per cent as markets reopened after the Easter holidays. It was the first time they had traded since the airline outlined its rescue plan on April 8, which would convert US$4.3 billion of debt into equity, and raise some new equity – wiping out much of the remaining value of the company’s current shares.
The shares later regained some ground to trade at 5.8 crowns by 0917 GMT, down 29 per cent on the day – a loss of 97 per cent from their all-time high in May 2015.
Even before the outbreak of the coronavirus, Norwegian Air faced financial problems after becoming overburdened with debt after a fast expansion in recent years.
“Norwegian is at the end of the line. Yet there is hope for the airline and pending creditor agreement, it may continue to fly,” analysts at brokerage Bernstein noted, adding that the company needs at least 2.7 billion crowns of equity.
“Rounded to the nearest Krone (crown), existing shares are all but worthless,” the brokerage said.
The budget carrier has grounded most of its fleet due to the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on travel and on March 16 announced the temporary layoff of 7,300 staff, about 90 per cent of its workforce.
In order for the company to stay in business, it must also convince bondholders to accept the proposed conversion of debt, Bernstein noted.
“If they do not, then we expect operations to cease, bankruptcy proceedings to start, and shareholders to get nothing,” it added.
Before today’s fall, Norwegian’s shares were down 78 per cent this year, underperforming other major European airlines, which were down between 30 per cent and 60 per cent.
The airline must now convince its creditors to agree to the rescue plan before it is put to a shareholders’ vote on May 4.
The Oslo stock exchange said today that trading in Norwegian’s shares would be subject to special observation until there was further clarification of the airline’s situation.
Special observation is used under circumstances that may make the valuation of a security particularly uncertain, according to the market operator’s guidelines. — Reuters