Belk Inc.: Lay-Offs Announced

This is the BDC Credit Reporter’s first article about Belk Inc., the revered North Carolina department store company. However, we’ve had Belk on our radar – and on the under performers list – since IVQ 2016. No wonder: the business of Belk is retail and you know what’s happened to that…

Furthermore – and worrying – is the large amount of BDC capital invested in the debt and equity of the company. Mostly the former. At 9/30/2019 there were 6 BDCs involved with a combined $170mn invested at cost in various debt tranches and a sliver of common stock. The FMV was $128mn, and may go lower when IVQ 2019 results get published. According to Advantage Data, which keeps a list of all BDC funded companies by capital committed, Belk was the 103rd largest investment, out of 4,000 or more companies out there.

The BDC with the most to lose is FS-KKR Capital (FSK), which has committed $122mn, or 72% of the total – all in junior debt or equity. In the IIIQ 2019, there was an amendment made to the debt, and the second lien was split into two. One tranche is carried at par and the second – larger – amount was discounted in value even more than before. See the discussion on FSK’s Conference Call.

As far back as June of 2019 S&P was on the record with a downgrade to CCC, and the contention “a debt exchange that we would view as distressed could occur over the next 12 months”. For our part – not to be outdone – we long ago added the retailer to our list of companies that we expect to default or be restructured in 2020.

All the above is to explain why we’re writing about what might be – or might not – a minor development (except to the individuals involved) at the company: the lay-off of 80 personnel at headquarters. This seems to be yet another sign that all is not well in North Carolina and there may be other shoes to drop. We’ll be keeping close tabs – including those fourth quarter 2019 BDC valuations and any color coming from conference call.