Air New Zealand Ltd said on Wednesday it would raise NZ$2.2 billion ($1.53 billion) to shore up its pandemic-hit balance sheet and repay a government-liquidity package of NZ$2 billion as New Zealand's international border reopens.

The equity capital raise will be conducted via a rights issue and redeemable shares raising NZ$1.8 billion, of which NZ$850 million will be used to repay outstanding debt owed to the New Zealand government, which owns 51.9% of the airline.

The remaining NZ$950 million will be used to strengthen the balance sheet and aid recovery from the COVID-19 ravages, the carrier said. It has also undertaken a fresh debt of NZ$400 million from the government to provide additional liquidity.

Last month, the carrier said it drew down NZ$760 million from a NZ$1 billion government loan and had not yet touched NZ$1 billion of redeemable shares.

Air New Zealand had also flagged its worst annual loss since 2001 due to a combination of an Auckland lockdown, expiring government relief schemes, rising fuel prices and an international border closure.

As international borders reopen, the carrier has seen some improvement in sales, prompting the company to forecast an annual underlying loss before tax and significant items to be less than NZ$800 million, lower than its earlier view.

It logged an underlying loss before tax and one-off charges of NZ$440 million last year .

The government earlier this month moved up the opening of international borders to some travellers after more than two years of COVID-19 isolation.

Closed borders have had a significant impact on the economy, cutting off the supply of seasonal labourers from Pacific nations and reducing air shipping options, as well as halting international tourism.

Vaccinated travellers from Australia, New Zealand's biggest source of tourists, can enter the country without the need to quarantine from April 12 rather than July as previously planned.

Tourists from visa-waiver countries including the United States, Britain and Singapore will now able to visit from May 1.

($1 = 1.4366 New Zealand dollars)

(Reporting by Sameer Manekar in Bengaluru and Jamie Freed in Sydney; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)