Treasury Wants Warrants, Repayment From Major U.S. Airlines on 30% of Grant Money

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told major airlines on Friday he wants them to repay some of the $25 billion in cash grants the U.S. Congress approved last month to cover payroll costs as airlines weather an unprecedented crisis due to the coronavirus, three industry officials briefed on the matter told Reuters.

The Treasury said in a statement Mnuchin will not require passenger air carriers that will receive $100 million in payroll assistance or less to provide compensation and “funds will be available promptly upon approval of their applications.”

Reuters first reported earlier on Friday that Treasury would not seek warrants from smaller regional carriers, which had urged the government not to demand compensation.

Mnuchin spoke with the chief executives of major airlines in separate calls on Friday and told them the department was offering 70% of the aid in grants that would not need to be repaid, and 30% in low-interest loans for which the airlines would be required to offer warrants, the sources said. The interest rates would rise over time if airlines had not repaid them, the sources said.

Three people briefed on the matter said the warrants, which would give the government the right to buy equity at a pre-set price and time, would be equal to 10% of the value of the loan.

That means that every $1 billion in government aid would include $700 million in grants, $300 million in low-interest loans and an option for the government to buy $30 million in shares. Two people said the warrants would be priced at current stock prices, Reuters adds.

Any of the terms could still be subject to change as talks continue. Warrants do not generate any balance sheet debt and thus should not hamper the ability of airlines, which can also apply for a separate $25 billion government loan package, to finance in the future, experts said.

Treasury said it is working with 12 passenger air carriers expected to get more than $100 million “to secure appropriate financial instruments to compensate taxpayers.”

The majority of the smaller requests sought less than $10 million and Treasury is not seeking compensation in order to maintain “needed air service,” avoiding layoffs “and limiting share buyback and executive compensation.”

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