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UPDATE 1-EasyJet scales back flying capacity due to lockdowns

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LONDON, Nov 6 (Reuters) - British airline easyJet said recently announced lockdowns in England, Germany and France had forced it to scale back its already reduced flying schedule, and it would now fly no more than 20% of capacity for the rest of the year.

The low level of travel due to the pandemic this year is putting increasing strain on the airline’s finances. It also said on Friday that it had raised cash of 131 million pounds ($171.99 million) from a sale and leaseback deal of 11 aircraft.

EasyJet’s 20% capacity guidance for the rest of the year is lower than the 25% plan laid out in October, as a surge in the virus has brought new restrictions. At 20%, its plan is behind bigger competitor Ryanair which is aiming for 40%.

The worsening outlook for travel is forcing easyJet to try to strengthen its balance sheet.

The latest aircraft deal comes on top of the 900 million pounds it has already raised so far that way this year, and the airline said it could do more. After the deals, it continues to own 141 aircraft or 41% of its fleet.

“EasyJet will continue to review its liquidity position on a regular basis and will continue to assess further funding options, including those that exist in the robust sale and leaseback market,” the company said in its statement.

Investors are expecting easyJet to announce its full-year results later this month which should contain more details on its financial position. They had been planned for Nov. 17 but the airline said on Monday that date was not confirmed.

EasyJet said the latest sale and leaseback deals were with two counterparties, ACS Aero 2 Beta Limited, which bought ten A320s and JLPS Holding Ireland Limited which bought one A320.

$1 = 0.7617 pounds Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Alistair Smout

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