Auto Trader plans equity raise to shore up cash


(Reuters) – UK online car marketplace Auto Trader said on Wednesday it would sell up to 46.5 million new shares, worth 5% of its share capital, to institutional investors in a bid to shore up cash during the coronavirus crisis.

“This equity raise will allow the group to resume its existing capital return policy at the earliest prudent opportunity,” said the company, which has halted share buybacks and remained undecided about 2020 dividends.

Auto Trader also said its entire board has offered to forego at least half of their salaries and that it will furlough its employees.

Before the lockdown in the UK, Auto Trader had allowed auto retailers to advertise their vehicles on its website free of charge throughout April, leading to a record number of cars being displayed on its platform.

The FTSE 100 company said it expects to meet its covenant tests in March, but sees the September test showing an increase in net debt to core profit ratio due to the free services provided. Auto Trader expects to remain below the maximum covenant threshold in September.

It had drawn on 289 million pounds ($356.94 million) of its 400 million pound revolving credit facility at the end of February.

Separately, a bookrunner on the company’s accelerated book build said, “we have received indications of interest in excess of deal size”.

Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta, Bernard Orr