U.S. Well Services: Loses Lawsuit

Poor old publicly traded U.S. Well Services (USWS) is spending more time in court these days than in its business of providing drills for the oil and gas business. A Delaware judge has ruled recently against the company in a contract dispute with Smart Sand Inc. (ticker: SND) and required USWS to pay $48mn in damages. That’s a major blow for an oil services company that is going through a major transition – dropping diesel pumps for electric ones and letting go of 171 employees as part of the transition. In a filing, USWS has indicated it’s likely to appeal the judge’s decision so this legal drama will play out a little longer.

All this is bad news for the two remaining BDCs with exposure: Capitala Finance (CPTA) and PennantPark Investment (PNNT). Both own over 1mn shares each in the company. (In the past, BlackRock Investment has as much as $46mn invested at cost in the stock, but that’s been sold, leaving only CPTA and PNNT). At March 31, 2021, when the last valuation was fixed, USWS was valued at $1.040. That price has dropped to $0.9593, an (8%) drop. The total value was $2.6mn in March and should move materially lower by the end of the second quarter. Thankfully, the amounts are not significant for either BDC.

We are retaining a CCR 4 rating for USWS and adding the company to our Trending list, given the likely (modest) change in fair market value to occur in the IIQ 2021.