Moody’s Investors Service validated the performance of Delta’s 80,000 employees worldwide and the company’s disciplined financial strategy when it upgraded Delta’s debt rating to Baa3, an investment grade level.
Delta is the first global U.S. airline to have its rating restored to an investment-grade level by a major ratings firm.
“This is a major achievement for Delta’s 80,000 employees worldwide and is a direct result of their hard work,” said Paul Jacobson, Delta’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. “"Our employee focused culture is driving superior cash returns that have allowed us to pay down debt, invest in the business and return cash to shareholders in a balanced approach."
Since 2009, Delta has reduced its debt by more than $10 billion and implemented a highly disciplined strategy around capital deployment, improving operating margins and harnessing the innovation of its people.
"We believe that Delta will continue to effectively manage its network and operations, and build on the capital-efficient growth strategy to sustain a competitive operating margin with free cash flow that leads the industry and compares favorably to other companies rated investment grade," said Moody's Senior Credit Officer, Jonathan Root, in a press release.
Root cited Delta’s ongoing debt reduction, its targeted return on invested capital, the use of free cash flow to repurchase shares, and the contribution of $1 billion annually to its pension plans.
Forward Looking Statements
Statements in this press release that are not historical facts, including statements regarding our estimates, expectations, beliefs, intentions, projections or strategies for the future, may be "forward-looking statements" as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. All forward-looking statements involve a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from the estimates, expectations, beliefs, intentions, projections and strategies reflected in or suggested by the forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, the cost of aircraft fuel; the impact of rebalancing our hedge portfolio, recording mark-to-market adjustments or posting collateral in connection with our fuel hedge contracts; the availability of aircraft fuel; the effects of terrorist attacks or geopolitical conflict; the possible effects of accidents involving our aircraft; the restrictions that financial covenants in our financing agreements will have on our financial and business operations; labor issues; interruptions or disruptions in service at one of our hub or gateway airports; disruptions or security breaches of our information technology infrastructure; our dependence on technology in our operations; the effects of weather, natural disasters and seasonality on our business; the effects of an extended disruption in services provided by third party regional carriers; failure or inability of insurance to cover a significant liability at Monroe’s Trainer refinery; the impact of environmental regulation on the Trainer refinery, including costs related to renewable fuel standard regulations; our ability to retain management and key employees; competitive conditions in the airline industry; the effects of extensive government regulation on our business; the sensitivity of the airline industry to prolonged periods of stagnant or weak economic conditions; and the effects of the rapid spread of contagious illnesses.
Additional information concerning risks and uncertainties that could cause differences between actual results and forward-looking statements is contained in our Securities and Exchange Commission filings, including our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2015. Caution should be taken not to place undue reliance on our forward-looking statements, which represent our views only as of Feb. 16, 2016, and which we have no current intention to update.