Frontier Communications: To Skip Interest Payments

On March 16, 2020 Bloomberg reported that troubled telecom giant Frontier Communications plans to skip making interest payments on some of its bonds, starting a 60 day countdown to a payment default. We’ve written nine times (!) about Frontier before, given the twists and turns of what promises to be “one of the biggest telecom reorganizations since Worldcom Inc. in 2002″.

None of that is surprising as news reports and the BDC Credit Reporter have been predicting a Chapter 11 filing and a massive re-organization for months, but does indicate the day of reckoning is coming ever closer. The bankruptcy – which we expected in the IVQ 2019 – looks likely to land in the IIQ 2020.

Since our last report a couple of the many BDCs that hold the company’s debt have reported IVQ results and their latest valuations on their Frontier positions. Oaktree Strategic Income (OCSI) and non-traded sister BDC Oaktree Strategic Income II hold the 6/15/2024 senior Term debt and – in the case of latter BDC – the 2026 Senior Note. All we can report – without comment because we don’t understand the capitalization of Frontier well enough to differ – is that the debt is still carried at a premium. Obviously, Oaktree – which must be familiar with whatever plans for a restructure are underway – believes that there will be no loss booked if and when the seemingly inevitable bankruptcy happens.

We’ve not yet heard from all the other BDCs that have a position in Frontier, most of whom are part of the FS Investments-KKR group. However, publicly traded FS KKR Capital (FSK) has reported its IVQ 2019 portfolio and we see that Frontier has dropped out since September 2019. No comment was made on the latest conference call, but we imagine management may have decided caution was the better part of valor and sold out its position. For all we know that may be true for its 4 sister non-listed BDCs. If that’s true, BDC exposure to this upcoming massive bankruptcy might be very small.

We’ll continue to track this company and expect to be discussing the Chapter 11 filing and its implications before long.