VIP Cinema Holdings: Files Chapter 11

Well, that’s embarrassing. For the last few weeks we’ve prided ourselves on having identified all BDC-funded companies that are under-performing. However, we’ve now learned that cinema seat manufacturer VIP Cinema Holdings has just filed Chapter 11, and that there are 3 BDCs involved and $24mn invested at cost who are about to take a haircut. VIP Holdings was not on our under performers list. All BDC exposure is in a 2023 Term Loan. We should have placed the company on the under performers list in the IIIQ 2019 (the last one reported) when the debt was discounted up to (25%), versus (8%) the prior quarter. The BDCs involved are Garrison Capital (GARS); Main Street (MAIN) and non-traded HMS Income, which is managed by MAIN.

The company appears to have a plan in place to allow a fast exit from bankruptcy: a debt-for-equity swap with the existing lenders that will see $178mn in debt extinguished out of $210mn and new capital brought in by a PE group – H.I.G. Capital. Reuters reports that the company “hopes to emerge from bankruptcy by mid-April, while preserving 373 jobs”

For the record: VIP was founded in 2008 in New Albany, Mississippi, as a residential furniture maker and reportedly has a 70% share of the U.S. market for luxury movie theater seating.

Questions have to be asked about lenders underwriting a single product company which services an industry (movie houses) whose troubles are well known. Also, when a borrower has a 70% market share the most likely direction is usually down. Still, we don’t know exactly how the BDCs involved will fare and exactly what portion of their debt will be converted to equity and what kind of realized loss – if any – will be booked. That’s likely to become evident in the IQ or IIQ 2020 results.

This new non accrual/bankruptcy is notable – besides from the fact that we missed the name in our research- for the speed at which the company went from performing to non performing. This credit dates back to IQ 2017, according to Advantage Data. As mentioned above VIP’s debt was valued close to par through IIQ 2019. Just a few months later virtually all its debt has to be written off for the business to be viable. This begs questions about the valuation process of the BDCs involved as we can’t imagine the slowdown in VIP’s sales was a very recent phenomenon. We worry that BDC lenders – and the army of valuation experts that review their investments just about every quarter – are only recognizing problems when they are right in front of them and inescapable. That’s good for manager compensation levels and keeps investors from worrying for a while, but may keep matters that should be brought into the open in the dark.