Central Florida’s largest employers anticipating short-term damage due to COVID-19

ORLANDO, Fla. — Central Florida’s largest employers are borrowing money with the anticipation that long-term damage is not being done due to COVID-19.

Just one week after announcing the temporary closure of its theme parks, Disney filed a notice with the Security and Exchange Commission of the sale of $6 billion in bonds.

The moves by Disney are causing Fitch ratings to declare that “the coronavirus pandemic will materially weaken Disney’s operating and credit profile over the near term," adding that it expects the parks to remain closed into April.

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Fitch said Disney, Central Florida’s largest single-site employer, should rebound quickly.

“The economy was in perfect health before catching the coronavirus, and so like a person who is in good health and not elderly, the consequences for getting this virus are not too grave, and the same is true for the economy,” said Dr. Sean Snaith, an economist at the University of Central Florida.

Snaith said major employers should be able to ride out weeks of disruptions, provided it doesn’t stretch into months.

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While Disney was issuing bonds, Darden Restaurants, another major employer, tapped into a $750 million line of credit.

The company told investors doing so would give it “flexibility given uncertain market conditions.”

Meanwhile, defense contractor Northrop Grumman is offering $2.25 billion in bonds as well.

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Boeing is shuttering for two weeks to ride out the conditions.

Universal, another major employer, had been hoping to reopen its park in Japan. So far, that has not happened.

Katlyn Brieskorn, WFTV.com

Katlyn Brieskorn is a Digital Assignment Editor at WFTV. She joined Channel 9 in July 2019.