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By Abhinav Ramnarayan and Alexander Hübner
LONDON/FRANKFURT (Reuters) -German airline Lufthansa received strong investor backing for a 2.14 billion euro ($2.47 billion) rights issue, providing some encouragement for travel companies looking to weather the after effects of the COVID-19 crisis.
The company said on Wednesday that its rights issue was 98.36% subscribed by investors, and the remainder was quickly sold in the open market soon after.
The cash will be used to repay a chunk of the 9 billion euro ($10.4 billion) government bailout it received last year to stay afloat throughout the COVID pandemic, which resulted in the Economic Stabilisation Fund (ESF) taking a 15% stake in the group.
This was cut slightly in the rights issue to 14.09%, the German state finance agency said on Wednesday.
Sentiment towards the airlines and travel sectors was boosted in September by the lifting of restrictions on travel between the United States and Europe in particular.
"There was a relaxation in trans-Atlantic travel the day the rights issue was announced - we anticipated an eventual lifting of restrictions but did not expect it to happen on the day,” said Stephane Gruffat, co-head of equity capital markets for the EMEA region at Deutsche Bank.
He said this was the right time for the sector to be raising capital with passenger volumes and the number of flights increasing and with airlines have reduced their cost bases and cash flow stabilising.
Lufthansa is one of several airlines and travel companies that have raised cash or are planning to raise funds to get through the toughest period for the sector in two decades.
EasyJet recently completed a 1.2 billion pound ($1.63 billion) rights issue, while tourism group TUI announced on Wednesday it would raise planned 1.1 billion euros and Air France is believed to be considering its options.
A solid deal for Lufthansa will provide some encouragement for the others.
BofA Securities, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan underwrote and managed the transaction.
($1 = 0.7378 pounds)
($1 = 0.8672 euros)
(Reporting by Abhinav Ramnarayan and Alexander Huebner, editing by Louise Heavens)