Ferrellgas Partners: In Default ?

On October 15, 2019 Ferrellgas Partners published its full year results. For the last quarter of the fiscal year, the giant propane distributor reported a net loss of ($72mn) and Adjusted EBITDA of $4mn, while interest expense and maintenance capital expenditures and the gains from minor assets sales were $41mn. Or, in other words, the company is performing very badly. The stock price dropped by a third, to close at $0.65.

If that wasn’t enough, the 10-K reveals a dispute between the company and its senior lender TPG Specialty Lending . The latter is claiming that by not delivering certain financial information within a prescribed period, the company is in default under its credit agreement – even though the said information was subsequently forwarded. Moreover TPG believes the auditor’s opinion contains language suggesting doubt about Ferrellgas remaining a “going concern”. The company reads the document differently. In any case the parties have not agreed and the lender is expected – both by Ferrellgas and us – to take further action. That might include attempting to force an involuntary bankruptcy.

The company has been headed south for some time, so we’re not surprised about the poor results – or the likely bankruptcy – but only about the manner in which the company and its secured lender have fallen apart, which will add to the complexity. Total BDC exposure is very high: $101mn. Of that $82mn at cost is held by TPG Specialty (TSLX) in the senior secured debt, nominally to mature in 2023 but which the company is now carrying as a short term liability. See pages 52-53 of the 10-K. FS Energy and Power Fund holds two junior tranches of the debt for the remainder. TSLX is very confident that its senior secured status will ensure no loss under most imaginable circumstances. Still, there’s $8.3mn of investment income in play. We hope that TSLS – which has a very good track record of financing troubled businesses in just the right way – knows what they’re doing where propane assets are concerned.