Honeywell International (NYSE:HON) is ramping up production of N95 masks in the U.S. and may hire 500 workers in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic that has led to a shortage of the particulate-filtering respirator mask across the globe. Honeywell is among the few world-renowned N95 mask makers, along with larger manufacturers like 3M that are maxing out mask production.
Last week, Vice President Mike Pence announced that recently enacted legislation would allow these companies to begin selling millions of more masks immediately, without fearing any liability.
Meanwhile, Honeywell is seeking to raise a term loan of nearly $5 billion as it prepares for a challenging business environment, according to a report from Bloomberg.
Honeywell's plans to maintain financial resilience amid COVID-19
In February, Honeywell announced plans to expand production of the N95 masks at multiple facilities across the globe. Its masks and other industrial parts and safety products are available through retailers across the U.S. and Europe as well as key e-commerce portals in China, including JD.com and Alibaba's Tmall.com.
Pence said Honeywell could boost production by nearly 120 million masks per year. Accordingly, Honeywell is now setting up a new mask production line at its factory in Smithfield, Rhode Island, which otherwise manufactures products like UVEX safety glasses and industrial face shields.
For this new production line, Honeywell will hire at least 500 workers at its Smithfield facility.
At the same time, Honeywell is looking to raise a term loan of $5 billion to "strengthen" its financial position during these uncertain times, as Bloomberg reports. Fears of a recession loom large, and many companies are tapping additional funds to build up resilience for the near future.
Honeywell's high investment-grade rating should come in handy now, as it should enable the company to raise funds without much fanfare. A high rating, which reflects manageable debt levels and the company's ability to repay, allows companies easier access to funds. The grounding of Boeing 737 MAX is already hurting Honeywell's aerospace business, so any funds that it can raise now is a step in the right direction to maintain its financial fortitude if things turn for the worse.