Korean Air's dangerously high debt requires it to shore up confidence. Delta investment would help

Premium Analysis

Korean Air's strategic positioning is precarious as its main Asia-North America segment faces competition from competitors on both sides of the Pacific. The situation is worsened by financials hammered by the bankruptcy of the Korean Air subsidiary Hanjin Shipping.

Yet even before, Korean Air's debt neared 1,000% and available cash covers only a month of revenues. The market does not have confidence in Korean Air's attempt to fix its liquidity position, and the Cho family that established, and still manages, Korean Air faces sticky scandals. As Korea is in political and business upheaval, chaebol conglomerates are no longer sacred.

Delta Air Lines to the rescue? With strategy and financials battered, Korean Air views Delta's long sought partnership more favourably than it did a few years ago when Korean Air was on a high and seemingly did not need its pushy SkyTeam cousin. Delta may be offering to inject equity into Korean Air, and perhaps will not partner without equity involved.

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