With all the sense of inevitability of an ancient Greek drama, yet another energy company has filed for bankruptcy protection. This time it’s Fieldwood Energy, LLC “a premier independent E&P company in the Gulf of Mexico“. Based on the company’s press release, the company already has a formal restructuring plan to submit to the bankruptcy court, agreed to by two-thirds of its senior lenders. Once again a company and its creditors are looking to the “debt for equity swap” as the solution for what ails the business. Also – as per the usual – Fieldwood has arranged a Debtor-In-Possession (“DIP”) facility and is using cash on hand to fund liquidity needs while going through the bankruptcy process. The amount of the DIP, though, is not given.
There are three BDCs with exposure – all in the first lien debt – to Fieldwood: $13.3mn. The only public BDC is Barings BDC (BBDC), which also has the only material exposure: $10.1mn. The rest is held by non traded Monroe Capital Income Plus and NexPoint Capital. The loan – now on non accrual -is priced at just LIBOR + 525 bps, suggesting lenders believed this was a “safe” energy loan (to our minds a clear oxymoron) when first booked back in 2018.
However, the investment has been in trouble for some time, rated as underperforming as far back as IQ 2020, long before Covid-19 drastically reduced market demand for fossil fuels. The BDC Credit Reporter has been writing about the company since April 15, 2020 and had already downgraded Fieldwood to a CCR 4 rating, and placed the name on our Weakest Links list. Now the company has been downgraded to CCR 5 and added to the Bankruptcy list.
For BBDC this is a telling reminder that no energy loan is safe in a world where oil can trade at $100 a barrel one day and at next to nothing a few years later. These single focus businesses cannot handle almost any amount of debt when their main product is subject to such drastic fluctuations. In this case BBDC, and the other lenders, look likely to be left with equity of dubious value and may have to stump up more funds with no great confidence that this time the right capital structure has been found.
We’ll circle back to Fieldwood once we hear about whether the court is in agreement with the proposed plan and when we can evaluate what the company’s balance sheet – and business prospects – might look like going forward.