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Fri, May 10, 2013

Delta Announces Plan To Return More Than $1 Billion To Shareholders

Board Of Directors Authorizes $500 Million Share Repurchase

In a broad financial plan released Wednesday, Delta Air Lines  announced a balanced capital deployment program aimed at creating up to $5 billion of value for shareholders, including returning more than $1 billion to shareholders over the next three years. As part of this program, Delta's Board of Directors has initiated a quarterly dividend and declared a $0.06 per share dividend for shareholders of record as of Aug. 9, 2013. This dividend will be paid on Sept. 10, 2013. In addition, the Board has authorized a $500 million share repurchase program, to be completed no later than June 30, 2016. Together, these two programs are designed to return more than $1 billion of capital to shareholders over the next three years.

"Delta's financial performance and balance sheet have strengthened considerably over the past five years and the Board believes the company is now in a position to begin returning cash to our shareholders," said Daniel Carp, chairman of Delta's Board of Directors. "The Board's shareholder return program makes a long-term commitment to our shareholders with the implementation of an ongoing quarterly dividend, while also providing flexibility to return additional cash to shareholders through the share repurchase program."

Since 2009, Delta says it has made significant investments in its people, product and service, while improving its earnings and generating $4 billion of free cash flow. That free cash flow has been dedicated to strengthening the company's balance sheet. As a result, Delta's adjusted net debt has fallen from $17 billion at the end of 2009 to just under $12 billion at the end of 2012. The company expects to achieve its $10 billion adjusted net debt target by the end of 2013.

"Delta's strategy has resulted in a solid financial foundation for our company, tremendous improvements in our fleet, facilities, products and technology, as well as top-notch operational reliability and service to our customers," said Richard Anderson, Delta's chief executive officer. "The capital deployment plan unveiled today furthers our commitment to becoming the airline of choice for our employees, customers and shareholders."

In an investor presentation Wednesday morning, Delta outlined a comprehensive, five-year financial plan. The plan focuses on free cash flow generation through a combination of expected earnings improvements and a disciplined approach to capital investment. Over the next five years, the company plans to reinvest $2.0 - $2.5 billion annually, or approximately 50 percent of its operating cash flow, into improving the company's fleet, facilities, products and technology. The resulting free cash flow will be used to return cash to shareholders, further reduce the company's debt, and opportunistically address longer-term pension funding needs, driving up to $5 billion of value to Delta's shareholders.

As part of this plan, Delta expects to achieve and maintain an adjusted net debt level of $7 billion, a $5 billion reduction over 2012. By meeting the $7 billion target, Delta will have reduced its adjusted net debt by $10 billion since 2009, significantly decreasing the company's balance sheet risk and generating more than 50 percent savings in interest expense.

The company also plans to make up to $1 billion of incremental contributions to the company's defined benefit pension plans over the next five years. These contributions would be in addition to the $650 - $700 million annual required minimum contribution.

FMI: www.delta.com

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