NEW YORK (
) -- The skies, apparently, are no longer falling for the airline sector.
At a roundtable held Wednesday by Fitch Ratings in New York City, the consensus opinion was that the threat of airline bankruptcies is waning.
"Those most at risk have some flexibility heading into the winter, the time when we usually see the most filings," Bill Warlick, senior director at Fitch, said.
, parent of American Airlines, raised $2.9 billion in deals last week. Meanwhile,
, parent of United Airways, which had the highest threat of bankruptcy this summer, announced that they have liquidity initiatives on tap.
Still, one independent research firm begs to differ. Audit Integrity, a Los Angeles-based financial analytics firm, identified both AMR and
, as two of the top 20 U.S. companies with
AMR, according to Audit Integrity's study, carries an 8.7% risk of bankruptcy in the coming year, while Continental is facing 6.6% odds. The study, based on proprietary risk-modeling formulas, identified the most-endangered corporations with $1 billion or more in market capitalization.
"All year long we have been saying that AMR has the highest risk of a liquidity event due to the fact that they have quite a bit of debt due this year and aircraft deliveries to be financed," Helane Becker, analyst at Jesup & Lamont Securities said.
And even after its capital raise, Becker still downgraded AMR to hold from buy.
With the exception of
, all legacy carriers are in deep junk rating.
Some of these companies, like United and US Airways, have already filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy at least once this decade. "Another would achieve nothing," Warlick said.
The airlines also have few assets left to mortgage, and have been forced to find unconventional means to shore up liquidity.
Warlick adds that while consolidation in the industry is still a reality, it probably will not come from one airline buying another, like
Delta Air Lines
last year. Instead, Warlick says, "this could be an opportunity for other carriers to swoop in and pick up assets on the cheap."
"We are not looking for a V-shape or snap-back recovery," Warlick says. "We will continue to see losses in the fourth quarter for legacy carriers, but the worst case scenario has been abated."
-- Reported by Jeanine Poggi in New York
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