Bluestem Brands: Stalking Horse Offer Reduced

As we last wrote on March 11, 2024, Bluestem Brands is in Chapter 11. Now we hear from the Wall Street Journal that the “stalking horse” offer by Cerberus and a group of lenders to the company has been reduced from $300mn to $200mn. Further details are as yet unavailable.

The implications for the 4 BDCs with exposure – which has now increased to $34mn as the lenders provide DIP financing which is performing – are not clear. We expect the BDCs are part of the Cerberus headed attempt to undertake a debt for equity swap. Clearly market conditions have deteriorated since the bankruptcy. This might result in each lender getting a bigger equity slice of a smaller pie or cause another buyer to swoop in or delay the exit from Chapter 11, which has the effect of depleting cash resources. (Bankruptcy is a very expensive process, and this one will shortly be entering its fourth month).

The BDCs involved in the original debt have already discounted their loans by (40%) as of March 31, 2020. Given the reduced perceived value of Bluestem, this might result in a yet bigger discount as of the June 30 valuation and a bigger realized loss when this phase is completed. The $6.3mn in DIP financing, though, should continue to be unaffected for the moment. We maintain the company’s CCR 5 rating.

This drop in the value of Bluestem is emblematic of what is likely to happen to recovery values going forward. Before Covid-19 struck, bankrupt companies were – by and large – retaining much of their value given plentiful capital in the market. Now buyers, investors and lenders are all pulling out their forensic microscopes and values are dropping. We’ll be interested to compare the final discount the lenders have to absorb against the March 31 value when this transaction plays out. It will be instructive both about Bluestem Brands and about recovery expectations more generally. The BDC Credit Reporter guesses we could see a substantial further drop. This is what happens in recessions. The days of a V recovery seem far off.