UAL Corp., parent of United Airlines, yesterday said it secured $3 billion in an exit financing deal led by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. The agreement is the last major hurdle in the airline's bid to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection by Feb. 1.
United executives called the terms of the all-debt, six-year financing deal "attractive."
Since filing for bankruptcy protection in December 2002, United has cut more than $7 billion in annual costs, mostly by cutting jobs and reducing pay, pensions and benefits.
"United is a far different company coming out of bankruptcy than it was going in," said Frederic F. Brace, UAL's chief financial officer. "Our demonstrated ability to restructure resulted in four major banks competing vigorously to provide exit financing, and today's agreement reflects the market's confidence in United."
United plans to use the financing to pay off its interim financing loan and strengthen its cash position for its emergence, executives said. United received about $500 million more in financing than it had expected, suggesting that Wall Street bankers were more interested in airlines as long-term investments despite the industry's troubles.
"United has made significant progress and has dramatically improved every aspect of its business," said Chad A. Leat, head of global credit markets for Citigroup corporate and investment banking. United, the nation's No. 2 airline, was the second large airline to file for bankruptcy protection after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The first, Arlington-based US Airways Group Inc., went through two Chapter 11 filings within three years. Last month, US Airways merged with America West Holdings Corp. Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines both filed for Chapter 11 protection last month. Two smaller carriers, ATA Holdings Corp.'s ATA Airlines and Aloha Airgroup's Aloha Airlines also are in bankruptcy court.
If United emerges from Chapter 11 in February, the airline will have many challenges, including high fuel prices and increased price competition. The first quarter is also traditionally one of the weakest periods for airline travel. Last month, United reported a 1.5 percent decrease in passenger revenue in September compared with September 2004, largely because of lower prices in North America.