Carnival stock soars after Saudi sovereign wealth fund takes stake

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Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Ecstacy cruise ship is docked at the Port of Jacksonville amid the Coronavirus outbreak on March 27, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida.

Sam Greenwood | Getty Images

Shares of Carnival Corp. jumped by more than 20% Tuesday, extending Monday’s gains after the Saudi sovereign wealth fund disclosed an 8.2% stake in the cruise operator.

Carnival’s stock also rose by more than 20% Monday on the news and extended those gains Tuesday. Carnival stock is still down more than 70% since Jan. 1.

The public investment fund’s purchase of 43.5 million shares in Carnival comes as the company scrambles for liquidity while the coronavirus pandemic cripples the global travel industry, particularly the major cruise lines. Passengers have fallen ill and died as cruise ships become sites of COVID-19 epidemics, prompting the suspension of operations for Carnival and peers Royal Caribbean Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line.

In its quarterly earnings report published last week, Carnival did not provide 2020 guidance but assured investors that it will be able to remain in compliance with its debt obligations for at least 12 months. It added that the pandemic presents an unprecedented challenge to the industry.

“We cannot assure you that our assumptions used to estimate our liquidity requirements will be correct because we have never previously experienced a complete cessation of our cruising operations, and as a consequence, our ability to be predictive is uncertain. In addition, the magnitude, duration and speed of the global pandemic is uncertain,” the company said.

On March 13, the company fully drew down its $3 billion revolving credit facility. Last week, the company announced it was raising about $6 billion by issuing a mix of debt and equity.

As the cruise industry hemorrhages cash, it appears to have been excluded from the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package. 

Of the big three cruise companies, Carnival is best suited to weather a sustained downturn without any revenue, according to UBS Securities analyst Robin Farley. The company could survive for as long as 15 months without making any money, she wrote in a note Monday. 

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