Spirit Airlines raises fourth-quarter forecast, stock jumps

Spirit Airlines jetliners on the tarmac at Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport. (Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Joe Cavaretta | South Florida Sun-sentinel | Getty Images

Spirit Airlines on Friday raised its financial forecast for the fourth quarter of 2023 and said it is looking to refinance its debt, sending its shares soaring more than 17%. A rout earlier this week followed a judge’s ruling on Tuesday that blocks JetBlue Airways from buying the budget carrier.

Spirit said in a filing that it expects revenue to come in at about $1.3 billion, at the high end of its earlier forecast, thanks to strong bookings at the close of the year. It estimated adjusted negative margins of 12% to 13%, an improvement from a previous forecast for as much as a 19% negative margin for the last three months of the year.

The airline also credited lower fuel costs and other expenses for its improved estimates.

Friday’s gains weren’t enough to erase Spirit stock’s losses this week. Shares shed 55% through Friday’s close and lost more than $873 million in market capitalization as the ruling raised questions about the airline’s future while it was on already shaky footing. Some analysts said the carrier could be on track to file for bankruptcy protection, if not liquidate altogether.

The two airlines said they disagreed with the decision and were assessing next steps, which could include an appeal.

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Spirit confirmed Friday that it is weighing options to refinance more than $1 billion in debt that matures in 2025. It previously sold and leased back some of its aircraft. The airline said in the filing that it had $1.3 billion of liquidity at the end of 2023.

The carrier had been struggling even before the antitrust ruling and had last year warned about challenges including higher costs, weaker travel demand and a Pratt & Whitney engine problem that would ground dozens of its Airbus planes this year.

Spirit said Friday it expects compensation from Pratt & Whitney, a unit of RTX, in connection with that engine issue.

“Discussions with Pratt have progressed considerably since October, and while no agreement has been reached to date, the Company believes the amount of compensation it will receive will be a significant source of liquidity over the next couple of years,” Spirit said Friday in is securities filing.

Spirit plans to hold a quarterly call with analysts on Feb. 8 to discuss results and its outlook.

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