Bumble Bee Foods: Bankruptcy Likely

On August 9, 2019 news reports indicated Bumble Bee is seriously considering Chapter 11 to “relieve its financial stress connected to a guilty plea to a government price-fixing charge”. Here are more details, all of which suggest a filing is almost inevitable even if there are supposedly other alternatives on the table: “

Bloomberg reports, citing people familiar with the proceedings, the prospect of a court-supervised restructuring under Chapter 11 is among several options being evaluated, with a sale of the business another possibility. But the people, who asked not to be named, said potential buyers would have to deal with the aftermath of the legal proceedings, which are still ongoing.

Bumble Bee is also facing a cash squeeze, according to Bloomberg’s sources. Class-action lawsuits related to the antitrust case have increased its potential liability, while the company is also encountering claims it mislabelled products as dolphin-safe, they said.

The seafood supplier has also exceeded the maximum leverage ratio allowed under its senior debt facility, a US$650m term loan due in 2023, one of the people told Bloomberg“.

We’ve written about the company and its Canadian subsidiary twice before on July 22 and July 23. With the latest earnings reports, we see Apollo Investment (AINV) – one of two BDC lenders with exposure – has discounted its senior debt position only (7%) from (1%) the quarter before. That seems unrealistically optimistic even if AINV – and the other BDC lender TCW Direct – are in the 2023 first lien debt. Still, we checked the real time price on Advantage Data for that publicly traded loan, which was trading at 92 cents on the dollar.

This is what AINV said on its latest Conference Call, which does not augur well for the 6/30/2019 being as Bad As Its Gets:

“Ryan Patrick Lynch, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division – MD

 And then you guys’ investment in Bumble Bee. I think that company is about to file for bankruptcy or may have just been announced that they’re going to file for bankruptcy. Just wanted to know, does your 6/30 fair value market — you guys have it marked at about 95% of cost. Is that mark inclusive of if they have to run through bankruptcy?

 Tanner Powell, Apollo Investment Corporation – President & CIO of Apollo Investment Management [38]

 What I’d say there is that is an LCD article that came out today or yesterday. Our valuations are a point in time. The company has had, has experienced issues not only related to tariffs, but also related to historical issues with price fixing and consequent litigation expenses. We are a participant in a broader facility and are working with the borrower to deal with the issues and move things forward. But in terms of the specifics, our valuation is a point in time with the information available to us at the time as of quarter-end”.

Time will tell, but we expect a bigger ultimate Realized Loss is coming.

AINV has $2.0mn of annualized investment income at risk, so even a temporary interruption from a stay in bankruptcy court could impact the BDC. TCW’s exposure is even larger at $42mn and $4.5mn of investment income is involved, but we’ve not seen a June 2019 valuation as yet from the non traded BDC.