Constellis Holdings: Added To Under-Performing List

With the publication of the IIQ 2019 valuations by 8 BDCs with $107mn in various forms of debt exposure (2022-2024 and both senior and second lien), we’ve added Constellis Holdings to our under-performers list with an initial rating of CCR 3 (Watch List). The debt has been discounted between (6%-30%) from 0% to (5%) in the prior quarter.

This is not surprising as there has been a massive number of changes in senior management in recent months and downgrades from both S&P and Moody’s in the spring, worried about high leverage; cash flow losses and operational challenges. For the BDC sector, this is very big exposure in aggregate, with annual income of approx. $9mn at risk should the company default down the road. With that said $90mn of the debt is held by the three FS-KKR non traded BDCs (FS II-III and IV), which are intending to go public under one banner before long. How Constellis plays out will be of above average interest at FS Investment-KKR in the quarters ahead.

99 Cents Only Stores: Completes Recapitalization

On July 18, 2019, 99 Cents Only Stores announced by press release the completion of a restructuring plan that the BDC Credit Reporter discussed more than a month ago. Basically, the second lien and third lien debt holders are undertaking a debt for a minority equity stake position in the troubled value retailer. In addition, the sponsors – Ares Management and a Canadian pension fund – and other players will be injecting new equity capital as well. Moody’s has already – back on June 12, 2019 – called the restructuring ” a distressed exchange” , and downgraded the company’s rating. We had previously believed that a $20mn portion of the $55mn at cost in BDC exposure owned by sister funds Oaktree Specialty Lending (OCSL) and Oaktree Specialty Income (OCSI) was going to convert to equity, as part of the restructuring. (We assumed the asset-based loan in which TPG Specialty – TSLX –  has $32mn invested would either continue unchanged or be refinanced). On further review, and without any guidance on the subject from the BDCs involved or the company’s press release, we’ve changed our mind and assume the first lien debt will continue as before and not be involved in the conversion to equity. Both the OCSI/OCSL debt and the facility in which TSLX is involved in were trading at the close on July 19, 2019 at a (9%) discount to par, and were paying interest normally. (These are publicly traded debt issues, and we used Advantage Data’s real-time loan and bond pricing module). Given the new capital structure; the infusion of capital and reports that the operational turnaround underway at 99 Cents Only Stores that has been underway for months is bearing fruit, the short term credit outlook is up. We are upgrading the company from a CCR 4 Rating (what we call or Worry List) to a CCR 3 rating (aka Watch List). Much remains to be done following this second restructuring in so many years, and we do not forget that 99 Cents Only operates in the Bermuda Triangle industry of retail where other players have restructured or gone through Chapter 11 only to go bankrupt again. For the moment, though, we are cautiously optimistic and expect Moody’s may shortly upgrade the company and the remaining debt.

Frontier Communications: S&P Downgrades Debt Rating

On June 20, 2019, S&P Global Ratings downgraded “its long-term issuer credit rating and issue-level rating to CCC from CCC+, with a negative outlook. It’s also trimmed its rating on senior secured first- and second-lien debt to B- from B”, according to Seeking Alpha. The rating group went to say: “Notwithstanding its favorable near-term liquidity position,” the company will likely look at options “given the business’ downward trajectory and inability to refinance looming unsecured debt maturities in 2022, which are trading at deeply distressed levels,” S&P says. From the BDC Credit Reporter‘s standpoint, this only confirms our prior assessment that a bankruptcy or restructuring is more likely than not. We’ve had the company on our Worry List all year. The stock price is now $1.35, but was recently at an all time low of $1.21.

Frontier Communications: Restructuring And Chapter 11 Alternatives

Bloomberg published an excellent article about the different constituencies amongst Frontier Communications creditors, and the several alternatives being considered to cope with the telecom company’s mountain of debt. No change to the BDC Credit Reporter‘s views, as noted in the Company File.

99 Cents Only Stores: Completes Debt For Equity Swap

The good news for 99 Cents Only Stores, LLC – which is owned by Ares Management and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board ? Chapter 11 bankruptcy has been averted. Back on June 7, we warned on our Twitter feed that bankruptcy was a risk. Now the bad news: Ducking a trip to the bankruptcy court has been accomplished by a debt for equity swap and a fresh capital raise. According to Retail Dive:  “under the agreement, 99 Cents Only is to issue common and preferred stock in return for its outstanding $146 million second-lien term loan facility and $143 million secured notes”. From what we can tell, there are two BDCs in the secured notes : sister BDCs OCSL and OCSI, with aggregate exposure at cost of over $20mn, and generating over $1.5mn in annual investment income. (The bulk of the exposure is at OCSL). At March 31, 2019 the debt was still performing and written down only modestly (11-14%), although restructuring negotiations were already underway. This is not a transaction the “new” management at OCSL/OCSI can blame on Fifth Street. According to Advantage Data, the debt was added in late 2017 after Oaktree’s investiture as external manager.

Frankly, we’re a little surprised at how generously the BDCs have valued their exposure throughout. As late as IIIQ 2018, the debt was carried at par even though 99 Cents Only has been in trouble almost from day one, thanks to heavy leverage placed on the 2011 buyout. For a sense of proportion – and quoting Moody’s – debt to EBITDA was around 8x. In 2017, the company almost filed for Chapter 11 and was only saved by an earlier debt restructuring. It’s unclear if this second restructuring will do the trick, but OCSL and OCSI are now in for the long term in a non income producing position at the bottom of a still leveraged balance sheet. We’ll have to wait till the publication of the IIQ 2019 results to see how the BDCs value their new positions and whether any realized losses are booked. BDCs have great latitude in this area, so investors should pay attention to what is done as well as said.

Also with exposure is asset-based specialist TSLX, with $32.2mn in 2021 debt. The BDC has continued to mark the position at par, suggesting TSLX will be repaid in full on its FILO ABL facility when the time comes. We have no further details from the public record. We do know – from Advantage Data – that TSLX will be paid more than OCSL and OCSI and – as far as we can tell – have a better credit outcome thanks to their ABL approach. No wonder multiple other BDCs are eyeing getting into this specialized form of lending. By the way – outside of the public filings – none of the three BDCs involved appear to have discussed the challenges at the company since the debt was booked, either on a Conference Call or Investor Presentation. (We use Sentieo which searches all available filings for any input keywords).

By the way, we don’t have a Company File for the company, but will be adding one given that – this restructuring notwithstanding – BDC exposure continues and the final resolution of the greater than $50mn invested is some way off. After all, S&P has a rating of CC for the company…

Frontier Communications: Sells Assets To Repay Debt

May 30, 2019: Yahoo Finance reported Frontier Communications Corporation (ticker: FTR)  announced that it has inked a deal to sell its assets and operations in 4 states. The transaction is valued at $1.352 billion in cash, and is subject to regulatory approvals.The sale proceeds are likely to be utilized to pay off the company’s financial obligations. As of Mar 31, 2019, it had $119 million in cash and equivalents with $16,526 million of long-term debt. At the end of first-quarter 2019, Frontier Communications’ leverage ratio was 4.76:1. For the 5 BDCs involved, with $44mn in senior and subordinated debt at risk, this keeps the wolf at bay but is unlikely to result in full repayment at par. This remains on our Watch List.

Lannett Company: Article Questions Ability To Remain Solvent

According to an article published on Seeking Alpha and in charges brought by the State Of Connecticut, Lannett Company (LCI)  and ” many other generic pharmaceutical firms have been conspiring for years to drive prices of generics up”. The author of the SA article continues :

…there is no clear path for LCI to remain solvent if they receive a fine roughly equivalent to their market cap (high end of the proposed range). In a previous report I highlighted how little free cash flow was projected given the current guidance. With a run rate of ~$107m in EBITDA, $68m in interest expense and $32.5m in CapEx (mid-range of the guidance) the company will be producing ~$7m in FCF.

$7m in FCF isn’t going to be very helpful in paying off the $650m in net debt, but in a situation where the government tacks on a few hundred million of additional liabilities – that probably spells bankruptcy protection”.

Admittedly, the author is short the stock. Nonetheless, there is cause for concern. There are 3 BDCs with $16.4mn in senior secured exposure to the highly leveraged company: OCSI, Cion Investment and OCSL with a smaller position. In the IIIQ 2018, the debt was written down sufficiently to cause us to place the Company on our Watch List. In the IVQ 2018 the discounts increased t0 a range of (6%) to (18%). More write-downs might be ahead or even non-accrual. About $1.25mn of investment income is at risk.

Monitronics: Convertible Debt Repurchase Terms Changed

Monitronics, which does business as Brinks Home Security, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ascent Capital Group, a public company with the ticker ASCMA. The business is very highly leveraged, with debt of $1.8bn and adjusted EBITDA at Brink’s for nine months annualizing at under $300mn. The auditor of ASCMA has raised “Going Concern” doubts in its IIIQ 2018 statements .  In January 2019, the parent hired Moelis to help them consider “strategic alternatives” , which  include “an investment in the Company or its operating subsidiary Brinks Home Security by a third party”. Amidst of all this, ASCMA has been attempting to restructure its debt mountain and – controversially – has been seeking to redeem Convertible Notes due 2020. This has been going on for months, but the latest press release on March 22, 2019 suggests the transaction has been achieved by raising the tender price offered. In the greater scheme of things, though, the problems of Monitronics and its parent appear far from over. ASCMA has become a penny stock, closing at $0.65, down hugely in the past year from over $ a share. Surprisingly, the 4 BDCs with $12mn of aggregate exposure to Monitronics have continued to mark their investment at close to par value through September 2018. All the BDCs – which include Oaktree Strategic (OCSI), FS Investment non-traded funds II & III  and non-traded CCT II (the last 3 all part of the FS KKR construct) – are invested in the 2022 Term Loan. The senior nature of the obligation may have justified the generous values ascribed. However, in the IVQ 2018 valuations OCSI discounted the debt by (10%) for the first time and the other BDCs also applied lower valuations than in the past. Looking at the numbers, the huge amount of debt and the little liquidity available – not to mention the auditor’s Going Concern doubts – has kept this credit on our Watch List for some time, regardless of the BDCs numbers. We don’t know if the Convertible Debt repurchase is a win, or a loss or neutral, but before long we still expect a credit event  – such as a default or non-payment – to occur. About $1mn of investment income is at risk spread roughly evenly over the BDCs mentioned. Furthermore, barring a well heeled buyer coming along, full repayment of the 2022 Term Loan also has to be questionable.

Frontier Communications: Refinancing Debt

On March 12, 2019 publicly traded telecom company Frontier Communications (FTR) announced its intention to raise $1.65 billion in “First Lien Secured Notes”,  due in 2027. The proceeds from the new debt will be used – amongst other purposes – to refinance “all outstanding indebtedness under its senior secured term loan A facility, which matures in March 2021”.  Oaktree Strategic Income (OCSI) is the only public BDC with exposure to Frontier Communications, all in the 3/31/2021 term loan A facility. Total outstandings at cost are $2.859mn and were valued at December 31, 2019 at $2.780mn. No date for the closing of the refinancing has been set, which could occur in the IQ of 2019 or the IIQ. OCSI should book an immaterial increase in value and lose an asset earning only LIBOR + 2.75%, or slightly over 5% per annum. This is a recent loan for OCSI, which only began lending in the IIIQ of 2018 under the new Oaktree management.