Making sense of easyJet’s Rights Issue

Many investors fled for the hills when easyJet announced its Rights Issue.

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You’ve probably experienced one of those moments on a plane when it suddenly drops and your stomach turns a somersault.

I’d imagine plenty of easyJet (LSE: EZJ) investors had a similar feeling last Thursday when they saw the value of their shares dive by double digits. It followed an unscheduled announcement by the company, and clearly many shareholders responded by hitting the ‘sell’ button.

I don’t own easyJet shares, but if I did — and as a follower of Foolish investing principles — my first response would have been: “Don’t panic.” I’d want to take time to calmly assess the new information. What does it mean for the company, its prospects and its valuation? And how does it now fit with my personal investment objectives?

Shares at a 48% discount

There were three parts to easyJet’s announcement. First, the launch of a Rights Issue to raise £1.2bn. Second, a trading update. And third, news that the company had received — and rejected — a takeover approach.
 
The market’s negative response to the announcement was down to the Rights Issue, because there was little of note in the trading update and news of a possible bid for a company is generally positive for its share price.
 
easyJet is offering shareholders the right, but not the obligation, to buy 31 new shares for every 47 shares they own. The share price prior to the announcement was 789p, but shareholders will pay just 410p per share for the new shares — a 48% discount.
 
What does this mean for the value of the company?

TERP

Before the announcement of the Rights Issue, the market was valuing easyJet at £3,604m (share price of 789p x 456.75m shares in issue). We need to add the £1,235m being raised in the Rights Issue, which the market didn’t know about at the time, giving a value of £4,839m.
 
The Rights Issue will add a further 301.26m shares to the share count. If the market were to still value easyJet at £4,839m, the share price would have to be 638p (x 758.01m shares in issue). That 638p is known as the theoretical ex-rights price (TERP).

Of course, ultimately the price may trade higher or lower than the TERP, depending on how the market views the prospects of the business in light of the Rights Issue and any other news. But the TERP provides investors with a useful baseline from which to work.

Killing a number of birds with one stone

easyJet’s Rights Issue provides extra security “should the COVID-19 pandemic continue to dampen or delay the recovery of passenger volumes over the next 12 months.” It has also given lenders more confidence in the company. Conditional on the Rights Issue, easyJet has secured additional liquidity in the form of a new four-year revolving credit facility of $400m.
 
The company also believes the proceeds of the Rights Issue materially improve its ability “to take advantage of long-term strategic and investment opportunities expected to arise as the European aviation market emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
 
Additionally, the board was able to present its ability to pursue such opportunities as one of the reasons to reject the takeover approach it received. It said the potential bidder (widely reported to have been Wizz Air) is no longer considering making an offer.
 
In summary, the Rights Issue has enabled easyJet to kill a number of birds with one stone. It’s strengthened its balance sheet, given it firepower to pursue growth opportunities, and helped it see off an unsolicited takeover approach.

What does the future hold?

It looks as if the European aviation market is heading for a once-in-a-generation shake-up, and that financially strong companies could take advantage of this. The question for easyJet investors is: how much shareholder value can the company add for the price of a £1.2bn fundraising and large increase in the number of shares?
 
Prior to the announcement of the Rights Issue, City analysts were expecting easyJet’s business to have fully recovered by its financial year to September 2023. Consensus net income was pencilled-in for £460m. Based on the pre-Rights-Issue number of shares, that would represent around 100p per share. Based on the post-Rights-Issue number of shares it would be about 60p.
 
Hopefully, all this gives you some perspectives on what the Rights Issue means for easyJet. Only you can decide whether its prospects and valuation are attractive, and whether the post-Rights-Issue company will fit with your personal investment objectives.

Should you invest, the value of your investment may rise or fall and your capital is at risk. Before investing, your individual circumstances should be assessed. Consider taking independent financial advice.

The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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