Zep Inc.: Upgraded By Moody’s

On August 17, 2020 Moody’s upgraded the corporate and debt ratings of Zep Inc., a producer of “chemical based products including cleaners, degreasers, deodorizers, disinfectants, floor finishes and sanitizers, primarily for business and industrial use“. The “Corporate Family Rating” was increased to Caa1 from Caa2 . Moody’s also upgraded Zep’s first lien senior secured credit facilities to B3 from Caa1 and its second lien term loan to Caa3 from Ca. The outlook is stable.

Apparently, the company has benefited from “the significant increase in demand for its products as customers across its food & beverage and industrial end markets enhanced standard operating procedures and protocols around cleaning, sanitation and maintenance in their facilities in response to the coronavirus pandemic“. Liquidity, too, is getting better and Moody’s expects these trends to continue.

For the 6 BDCs with $126mn in “Major” exposure to Zep, this is good news. In the IQ 2020, the second lien debt held was discounted (59%) and the first lien (30%), but was already being valued higher in the second quarter, reflecting the same trends as caused the Moody’s upgrade. Most impacted will be the Goldman Sachs organization whose 3 public and private BDC funds each have a major position in Zep to the tune of $88.4mn or two-thirds of the total. Oaktree Specialty Lending (OCSL) is also a significant lender with $31.6mn, mostly in second lien. Also involved are Oaktree Strategic Income (OCSI) as well as non-traded Audax Credit, but for only small amounts.

The BDC Reporter is upgrading Zep to a Corporate Credit Rating of 3 from CCR 4 given that the odds of full recovery are greater than that of eventual loss. Nonetheless, before setting off the fireworks and having a parade at this good news, we should remember most BDC exposure is in the second lien debt which still has a speculative rating (Caa3). Furthermore, the debt does not mature till 2025. Much can happen in the five years ahead, which is why we are retaining Zep on the underperformers list.

Still, in the short term – and the IIQ upward valuation notwithstanding – we may see a lower discount (i.e. unrealized appreciation) in the BDC IIIQ 2020 results.