Carnival stock soars after Saudi sovereign wealth fund takes stake

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 21% Tuesday before the market opened, extending Monday’s gains after the Saudi sovereign wealth fund disclosed an 8.2% stake in the cruise operator.

Carnival’s stock rose by more than 20% Monday on the news and extended those gains in pre-market trading on Tuesday, outpacing a broader market rally. Carnival stock is still down nearly 80% 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 the sites of COVID-19 epidemics, prompting the suspension of operations for Carnival and peers Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise.

In its quarterly earnings report published last week, Carnival withdrew its 2020 guidance while assuring investors that it will be able to remain in compliance with its debt obligations for at least 12 months. However, 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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