When can Britons next pack up the kids, buckets and spades and head for Majorca? It is a subject on which the government is proving evasive. More helpfully, Jet2, a UK-listed purveyor of package holidays to sunspots and ski resorts, lays out three scenarios for a resumption of flights: May 22, mid-July and September 1.
Airlines and travel companies have a lot riding on the date. Even Jet2, smaller and thriftier than rivals, reckons on burning through £75m a month in a fully grounded situation — well above the monthly £17m or so flowing in in the past couple of pre-pandemic years. Hence this week’s £422m placing and rights issue.
Whether this plugs the gap depends on when planes are cleared for take-off. Jet2 held £479m of “own” cash at end-January. Including customer deposits gives a higher tally. But the CMA’s threatened legal action against Lastminute (unless it refunds £1m owed in aggregate to 2,600 customers) shows the folly of tapping that piggy bank. Nor is Jet2 banking on loans of up to £300m from the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility, now under negotiation.
If the May 22 scenario came to pass, Jet2 would have an “own” gross cash balance of £185m-£195m in May and almost double that the following April. Adding in the full proceeds, all else being equal, would bring the level back to where it was a year ago.
Yet May is ambitious, even with reduced passenger numbers factored in. Yes, there are vaccines against Covid-19. But there are also logistical and political hold-ups and new strains of the virus to contend with. A September resumption would push Jet2’s cash balance into the red, with a negative £5m-£15m in August and £60m-£70m the following April.
Jet2’s shareholders, who include chairman Philip Meeson with 22 per cent, have kept the faith. Both the latest and last year’s placings were oversubscribed. On Friday afternoon the shares were trading just above the 1180p offer price. Still, Jet2 — like the tourists it serves — can only hope September really is the worst-case scenario.
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