99 Cents Only Stores: Completes Debt For Equity Swap

The good news for 99 Cents Only Stores, LLC – which is owned by Ares Management and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board ? Chapter 11 bankruptcy has been averted. Back on June 7, we warned on our Twitter feed that bankruptcy was a risk. Now the bad news: Ducking a trip to the bankruptcy court has been accomplished by a debt for equity swap and a fresh capital raise. According to Retail Dive:  “under the agreement, 99 Cents Only is to issue common and preferred stock in return for its outstanding $146 million second-lien term loan facility and $143 million secured notes”. From what we can tell, there are two BDCs in the secured notes : sister BDCs OCSL and OCSI, with aggregate exposure at cost of over $20mn, and generating over $1.5mn in annual investment income. (The bulk of the exposure is at OCSL). At March 31, 2019 the debt was still performing and written down only modestly (11-14%), although restructuring negotiations were already underway. This is not a transaction the “new” management at OCSL/OCSI can blame on Fifth Street. According to Advantage Data, the debt was added in late 2017 after Oaktree’s investiture as external manager.

Frankly, we’re a little surprised at how generously the BDCs have valued their exposure throughout. As late as IIIQ 2018, the debt was carried at par even though 99 Cents Only has been in trouble almost from day one, thanks to heavy leverage placed on the 2011 buyout. For a sense of proportion – and quoting Moody’s – debt to EBITDA was around 8x. In 2017, the company almost filed for Chapter 11 and was only saved by an earlier debt restructuring. It’s unclear if this second restructuring will do the trick, but OCSL and OCSI are now in for the long term in a non income producing position at the bottom of a still leveraged balance sheet. We’ll have to wait till the publication of the IIQ 2019 results to see how the BDCs value their new positions and whether any realized losses are booked. BDCs have great latitude in this area, so investors should pay attention to what is done as well as said.

Also with exposure is asset-based specialist TSLX, with $32.2mn in 2021 debt. The BDC has continued to mark the position at par, suggesting TSLX will be repaid in full on its FILO ABL facility when the time comes. We have no further details from the public record. We do know – from Advantage Data – that TSLX will be paid more than OCSL and OCSI and – as far as we can tell – have a better credit outcome thanks to their ABL approach. No wonder multiple other BDCs are eyeing getting into this specialized form of lending. By the way – outside of the public filings – none of the three BDCs involved appear to have discussed the challenges at the company since the debt was booked, either on a Conference Call or Investor Presentation. (We use Sentieo which searches all available filings for any input keywords).

By the way, we don’t have a Company File for the company, but will be adding one given that – this restructuring notwithstanding – BDC exposure continues and the final resolution of the greater than $50mn invested is some way off. After all, S&P has a rating of CC for the company…