NPC International: In Forbearance Agreement With Lenders

This has been brewing for a long time (we’ve been writing about the company since June 2019) but NPC International has failed to make debt interest payments on its first and second lien debt; gone into default and been – temporarily – reprieved in the form of a “forbearance agreement” from its lenders. Furthermore, earlier in 2020, NPC received a new $35 million loan to improve liquidity. “The terms of the super-priority loan, which was provided by existing lenders, prevent the company from making payments on the second-lien term loan, the people said“.

As you’d expect Moody’s and S&P were not happy about what has happened and called a non-payment payment of interest what it is – even if the lenders chose to forebear : a default and sharply downgraded the company.

All the above comes from Bloomberg, which also reports that management and its PE sponsor are considering all options (who doesn’t ?); including a Chapter 11 filing. That would allow the company to push back against lease contracts, which would make sense.

For months, we’ve had NPC rated CCR 4 and placed on our list of companies that we expect will file bankruptcy or drastically restructure in 2020. Given the depths of the company’s troubles – very high debt; liquidity crunch; declining industry sector – there’s an aura of inevitability about this story.

For the only BDC with material exposure – Bain Capital or BCSF – that means the likely wipe-out of its second lien debt, which is currently trading at 5 cents on the dollar. BCSF also holds the first lien debt, which is trading at 48 cents on the dollar. If those discounts hold, BCSF will be taking a realized loss of ($11.5mn), out of the $14.2mn committed. Unfortunately, as of September 2019, the BDC had only reserved ($8.3mn), so there’s nearly another ($4mn) to go. Also, $1.2mn of investment income will be suspended, and most of that is unlikely to be coming back post-conclusion of any restructuring. For a huge BDC like BCSF not a major blow, but hardly immaterial either.

The collapse of NPC has happened over a relatively short period, according to Advantage Data records. BCSF signed up in the IQ of 2017. Until the IIIQ 2018, all the debt was carried at or above par. Since the IVQ 2018, though, every quarter has brought a further devaluation. We added the company to the under performers list when BCSF devalued some of its debt greater than (10%) in the IQ 2019, and has been CCR 4 – our Worry List – since the IIQ 2019. Our latest update on these pages was in August 2019 and by then the die was almost cast. In a more general sense, this chronology supports our view that we should start paying attention whenever a company’s previously stable valuation starts to erode. That may provide some false negatives, but also provide a little more lead time about credits going awry. By the time the actual default occurs – as in this case – most of the damage is done.