mardis gras lng bunkering

The new LNG-powered MS Mardis Gras takes on LNG bunkers from the Q-LNG 4000 in Port Canaveral. Photo: Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Sells $2 Billion Junk Bond

Bloomberg
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October 20, 2021

By Jack Pitcher and Gowri Gurumurthy (Bloomberg) Carnival Corp. sold a junk bond Tuesday that was increased $2 billion, just over a week after the cash-burning cruise operator boosted the size of a leveraged loan deal that helped the company slash its borrowing costs.

The offering of 7.5-year unsecured notes, up from an original target of $1.5 billion, priced at a yield of 6%, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing a private transaction.

The company is refinancing expensive debt and pushing out maturities. Proceeds from today’s sale will be used to make scheduled principal payments on debt during 2022 and for general corporate purposes, the people added.

The cruise operator is focused on “clearing the runway” of near-term debt maturities as it works to return all ships to water, said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Jody Lurie. Management has guided for higher cash burn in the fourth quarter with a return to positive free cash flow by mid-next year.

“Carnival is clearing any stumbling blocks out of the way to normalcy,” Lurie said.

While the Miami-based company said it expects to return its full fleet to the seas by the spring of 2022, it’s still burning through cash as voyages resume. Carnival’s long-term debt stood at $28 billion as of the end of the third quarter, up from $9.7 billion at the end of 2019.

The upsized deal follows a $2.3 billion loan sale earlier this month, which was also increased from $1.5 billion and helped the cruise ship operator replace expensive 11.5% debt issued near the outset of the pandemic. Financing costs on the new loan were closer to 4%.

Carnival has already trimmed over $250 million in interest expense through loan refinancings this year, according to Bloomberg Intelligence calculations. Its ability to refinance cheaply shows both investors’ optimism for the cruise industry and the dearth of opportunities in a market still buoyed by liquidity.

Today’s deal would make Carnival the second biggest junk-bond issuer by dollar volume this year, behind T-Mobile US Inc., according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

If the company is indeed able to return toward pre-pandemic operations and generate positive cash flow next year, its bonds could tighten toward those of competitor Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.’s, which currently trade slightly tighter, Lurie said.

Bank of America Corp. managed the sale of the new offering.

By Jack Pitcher and Gowri Gurumurthy. With assistance from Davide Scigliuzzo, James Crombie and Nikolaj Gammeltoft. © 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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