Frontier attracts financing offers

Washington DC
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Bankrupt Frontier Airlines has secured two offers of financial backing, despite the difficult market and strong competition

Frontier Airlines, the Denver-based carrier that sought bankruptcy protection in April, has attracted not one but two offers of financing to help it emerge from reorganisation.

The 15-year-old airline won $75 million in financing from venture capital firm Perseus, and then within a weekend it found a revised package of the same amount from three different ­backers. The first deal would have given Washington DC-based Perseus control of the carrier when it emerges from bankruptcy. When faced with a new financing offer from three ­members of Frontier's committee of unsecured creditors - Republic Airways Holdings, Credit Suisse and AQR Capital - Perseus raised its offer to $100 million and lowered its interest rate.

 
 © Frontier Airlines

The airline's bankruptcy judge in early August cleared the first section of the Republic/Credit Suisse/AQR deal, giving Frontier some $30 million. The carrier expects to lose about $58 million in the June quarter, far worse than the $3.5 million loss posted in this period a year ago, and some are sceptical of Frontier's chances as it competes against both Southwest and United Airlines in a weakening economy.

George Hamlin, managing director of ACA Associates and long-time airline consultant, says: "They're between the Rockies and a hard place. Unless United goes back into Chapter 11 ­bankruptcy or the earth opens and swallows Southwest, Frontier's future is grim indeed."

But Mike Boyd, a Denver-based airline consultant, is far more confident. He says: "Southwest smells blood in the water and, since the Frontier bankruptcy, they've been pouring capacity into Denver. They're looking for easy market share gains. But we think Frontier still attracts a ­revenue premium and has a higher load factor."

Boyd notes that Frontier has raised some $80 million through aircraft sales, and stresses: "They're not doing anything wrong. They're selling Airbuses, what they should be doing."