By Joshua Franklin and Greg Roumeliotis
(Reuters) – Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd (N:) has hired investment bank Goldman Sachs Group Inc (N:) to explore financing options that could include the sale of a stake in the company, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.
Norwegian’s attempt to bolster is finances comes as cruise operators have been forced to suspend their operations due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. They have been left out of a $2.3 trillion stimulus package that U.S. lawmakers have adopted to support the economy and provide aid to troubled companies.
Among the options Norwegian Cruise is considering is a stake sale known as private investment in public equity (PIPE), the sources said. The company is in talks with several private equity firms about a PIPE deal, the sources added.
The sources, who requested anonymity as the deliberations are confidential, cautioned that no deal is certain. Norwegian Cruise did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Goldman Sachs declined to comment.
Several companies have turned to PIPE deals in recent weeks to bolster their finances, including car e-commerce platform Carvana Co (N:), payment firm EVO Payments Inc (O:), and online real estate broker Redfin Corp (O:).
Cruise lines have been rushing to bolster their cash coffers through equity and debt offerings following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to outbreaks on several ships.
Earlier this month, Carnival Corp (N:), the world’s largest cruise operator, raised $6.25 billion by issuing new debt and equity to investors, while Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (N:) clinched a $2.2 billion loan last month.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund disclosed earlier this month that it had amassed an 8.2% stake in Carnival.
Norwegian Cruise, the world’s third-largest cruise operator, has lost almost four-fifths of its market value this year, as it grounded its 28-ship fleet to help contain the spread of the virus.
The Miami-headquartered company, which also operates Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, disclosed last month it had drawn down on $1.55 billion of new and existing credit lines. As of the end of December, Norwegian Cruise had disclosed long-term debt of close to $6.9 billion.
“This liquidity is sufficient to cover expected cash needs over the balance of the year, but the cushion will be modest given any further deterioration in earnings,” credit ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service Inc analysts wrote about Norwegian Cruise’s finances on March 31.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on April 9 extended its “no sail order” for all cruise ships for up to 100 days. The cruise industry is currently working on a proposal to submit to the CDC, which will include enhanced sanitization and health safety protocols, according to industry trade group CLIA.
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