Avanti Communications: IIQ 2019 Update

On August 13, 2019 Great Elm Corporation (GECC) reported its IIQ 2019 portfolio. Included were new advances to long troubled satellite operator Avanti Communications. Despite GECC and other BDC lender/investor BlackRock TCP Capital (TCPC) writing down the existing debt and equity to the company in the quarter, management waxed enthusiastically about lending out more to Avanti. CEO Peter Reed used the opportunity to re-iterate GECC’s increasing confidence in the company, and its new CEO on the most recent Conference Call:

“When we formed GECC, Avanti was struggling to monetize the capacity of its satellite network.As Avanti encountered financial difficulty, we worked with other key creditors to improve the company through deleveraging its balance sheet, launching its biggest satellite to date and identifying and recruiting new Board members who brings stability and strategic insight into company. These improvements paved the way to hire Kyle Whitehill as the new CEO in April of 2018.

 Since Kyle’s start, he has dramatically overhauled sales and marketing, resulting in large contract wins and rapidly growing recurring core bandwidth revenue. With the business heading in an exciting direction, Great Elm and other significant Avanti stakeholders were given the unique opportunity to participate in the new 1.5 lien delayed draw term loan facility.

 As you can see from the tables on the bottom of the slide, the debt carries only an attractive interest rate but also a significant [feed] that accretes to GECC’s benefit. On its current trajectory and with minimal required capital expenditure, we expect that Avanti will have visibility into generating positive unlevered free cash flow”.

There is now $105mn of senior, second lien and equity exposure by the two BDCs in Avanti, with a value of about $45mn. There is no doubt that the company has made some progress recently, with a new satellite successfully launched just a few days ago. Even more recently Avanti has chosen to de-list itself from the London stock exchange given its concentration of ownership in 5 major shareholder groups. Unfortunately, that will make even less public information available to those of us on the outside looking in.

The BDC Credit Reporter will continue to remain fair minded but skeptical, given the company’s history; high levels of debt, opaque reporting and the very large amounts of BDC capital involved. Is Avanti a proverbial can being kicked down a very long road or a bona fide turnaround in the making ? We just can’t tell as we mostly have the BDC managers – with their conflicts of interest – as one of our principal sources of information.