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Airlines

UPDATE 1-Cathay Pacific tests investor appetite for first U.S. dollar bond in 25 years

(Adds Cathay comment in fifth paragraph)

HONG KONG, May 6 (Reuters) - Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd is considering issuing its first U.S. dollar bond in nearly 25 years, according to a term sheet seen by Reuters.

The COVID-19 pandemic-ravaged airline will begin speaking to investors on Thursday to determine if a deal goes ahead for a U.S. dollar Reg S bond, which means the debt cannot be sold to U.S.-based investors.

The size of the issue is yet to be determined and will be set based on the demand for the bonds, according to a person familiar with the matter.

A final decision would be made on the issuance ‘subject to market conditions’, according to the term sheet.

“We continue to explore capital-financing opportunities if suitable market conditions arise,” Cathay said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

The airline contemplated a U.S. dollar debt deal in 2019 - which would have been its first since 1996 – at the peak of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong but put it on hold because of the price demanded by investors.

Cathay shares fell 2.6% in Hong Kong trading on Thursday morning to HK$6.50, compared to the recent peak of HK$7.89 on March 18. The broader Hong Kong stock market was flat.

The carrier has traditionally issued nearly all of its debt in Hong Kong dollars.

In January it issued HK$6.74 billion ($869.51 million) of convertible bonds in Hong Kong dollars to shore up liquidity which prompted its shares to record their worst daily decline in more than 12 years..

Cathay said in March it was focused on preserving cash after posting a record annual loss of HK$21.65 billion, caused by a travel downturn, restructuring costs and fleet writedowns.

Its passenger numbers fell by 98.7% compared with a year earlier, though cargo carriage was down by a smaller 32.3%.

Reporting by Scott Murdoch in Hong Kong; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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