Frontier Communications: JP Morgan Downgrades Some Bonds. Stock Falls.

Despite Frontier Communications recent asset sales, which will reduce its debt mountain, the regional telecom remains in trouble. On June 12, 2019 a JP Morgan analyst  downgraded some of the company’s bonds; and the stock price dropped as much as 13% in reaction. Also, a distressed fund manager predicted a Chapter 11 filing would happen in 2019. Currently, the publicly traded FTR trades below $1.50, close to it’s all-time low. This must be disturbing for the multiple BDC lenders – in 4 different debt facilities from senior to subordinated, and in maturities as long as 2027. As we’ve noted in prior articles, BDC exposure aggregates $44.2mn, with non-traded Business Development Corporation of America (BDCA) with the largest exposure by far (nearly $40mn), including some junior. The only public BDC lending to Frontier is OCSI, with $1.5mn in 2024 Senior Term Debt and under $100,000 a year of investment income at risk of interruption. Frontier has been moved to our Worry List , just one step away from bankruptcy or restructuring, along with 32 other troubled BDC borrowers.

Fusion Connect: Further Details On Post Bankruptcy Financing

The Company filed for Chapter 11 on June 3. On June 11, in an article from the Global Legal Chronicle we learned that “ad hoc group of lenders also backstopped Fusion’s debtor-in-possession financing facility in the aggregate principal amount of $59.5 million, which consists of $39.5 million of new money term loans”. This suggests that the two BDCs with $18mn in senior debt exposure  –  CMFN and GARS – have increased their exposure to what was till very recently a fast growing enterprise, cobbled together from multiple acquisitions. It’s still too early to determine how this will all play out. The business may yet be sold or the existing lenders may be involved in a debt for equity swap. In either case, income from the pre-petition debt is going to be interrupted for months, and some sort of realized loss is likely. At 3/31/2019, the discount to cost that the BDCs were using ranged between (12%) and (17%). However, any income and return from the DIP financing should be money good.

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…

United Sporting Companies: Files Chapter 11

On June 10, 2019, Sportco Holdings, the parent of United Sporting Companies – an intermediate holding entity with no assets of its own  – and all its subsidiaries Ellett Brothers, LLC,  (“Ellett”), and four of Ellett’s six wholly-owned subsidiaries: Evans Sports, Inc.,  ; Jerry’s Sports, Inc. , Outdoor Sports Headquarters, Inc ; and Simmons Gun, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The filing is attached.  From the report provided to the bankruptcy court, the financial difficulties of the group are of long standing, and both sales and EBITDA have declined precipitously. The owners – who include WellSpring Capital Partners IV and Prospect Capital (PSEC) – have been seeking a buyer since the beginning of the year, but Houlihan Lokey – who was in charge of the auction – found no buyers despite contacting 55 prospects. Liquidation of the companies assets seems to be the likeliest course of action in bankruptcy. 321 jobs are at risk of being lost.

From a BDC perspective, PSEC serves as both equity holder (21%) and a second lien lender. The BDC first became a lender in 2012 with a $100mn advance. Over the years, exposure reached $160mn, but was reduced by March 31 2019 to $127mn at cost. (We don’t know if the reduction in outstandings was due to repayments by the borrower, or the sharing of the debt with other PSEC entities or third parties). The debt has been on non accrual since IIQ 2017. The most recent value of the debt was $35.7mn. We expect that the entire second lien loan will be written down to zero, judging by the information in the filing. The company reports adjusted EBITDA of only $8mn, while there is an asset-based loan senior to PSEC’s debt with $23mn outstanding. In addition, the company reports $41mn in unsecured obligations outstanding which, arguably, rank pari passu with the second lien debt, which totals $250mn. There are also unpaid wages and ongoing payroll to contend with. A $30mn Debtor In Possession facility is being envisaged, but we’re not clear if PSEC will be providing that new debt capital in bankruptcy. If we are correct, the Realized Loss will amount to approx $0.35 a share and the incremental hit to net book value will be $0.10. There will be no impact on income as PSEC has been forgoing over $17mn in annual investment income for two years.  This is obviously a major credit reversal for PSEC, and another indirect casualty of the shake-out happening in retail, made worse by some managerial miscalculations (see pages 7-8 of the filing). Although the business – according to management’s admission in the filing – has faced “headwinds” since 2d015, PSEC did not materially write down its second lien position until the non accrual occurred in IIQ 2017. That discount has risen over the subsequent quarters from (41%) to (72%) most recently.

CTI Food Holdings: Exits Bankruptcy

On May 7, 2019 huge food distributor CTI Foods Holdings emerged from Chapter 11, after a short stay that began less than 2 months before. In addition, the company announced the arrangement of a new $110mn Revolver to fund post-bankruptcy operations. For the 3 BDCs with $37mn in debt exposure to CTI Foods, this will result in likely booking of Realized Losses in the IIQ 2019 results. There is $28mn of second lien debt from FSK, CCT II and Guggenheim Credit Income Fund which will be written off as part of the restructuring. Apparently, CTI Foods is shedding $400mn in debt to become viable after many months of deteriorating performance in 2018. Less clear is what happens going forward to first lien and secured DIP financing (advanced in the IQ 2019 to help the transition) outstanding. For the BDC Reporter’s Views on this credit, and for further details, see the Company File.

Bellatrix Corporation: Completes Restructuring

On June 4, 2019 Canadian oil exploration company Bellatrix  announced the completion of its restructuring plan, which we wrote about in an earlier post on April 17, 2019. The press release provides useful summary details of the various components of the recapitalization but also addresses the 2023 second lien debt, which accounts for the $106mn BDC exposure to 4 different FS-KKR Capital BDCs, both traded (FSK) and non-traded. The deal is a partial debt for equity swap with lenders reducing the oil company’s total debt load by $110mn.

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.

Sequential Brands: IQ 2019 Results

On May 10, 2019 publicly traded Sequential Brands (SQBG) published its 10-Q. Two days earlier, the company held its regular Conference Call and issued its earnings press release. We reviewed the results on May 29, which only reinforced our concerns about the future of the business. Without getting into all the details, Sequential has $600mn in debt outstanding and is generating $16.8mn in “Adjusted EBITDA” and $15.6mn in interest. Plus, performance is headed south, with first quarter result “below expectations”. The stock is virtually worthless, valued at $0.6670, close to its all-time low. Yet, the 4 BDCs with a sit up and notice $293mn in exposure at cost continue to value their debt at or close to par. Admittedly, there is $10mn of equity invested which has been virtually written off, following the stock price. That leaves, though, a whopping $283mn in debt – almost all nominally first lien. The BDCs with exposure – ranking from largest to lowest are FSIC II, FSIC III, FSK and AINV, all in the 2024 Term Loan. FSK has exposure of $63mn and AINV $13mn. Should the company default, both the income loss from a non accrual and the potential loss of capital in a restructuring or bankruptcy could be sizeable. We assume in a Worst Case, the BDC lenders would lose all their equity stake and half their debt outstanding, or over $150mn in total. Given the size of the exposure; the financial condition of the borrower and the possibly overly optimistic valuation we’re placing Sequential on our Daily Watch List to make sure we don’t miss any development.

Z Gallerie: Sold At Bankruptcy Auction

According to the Wall Street Journal, online furniture and appliance seller DirectBuy Home Improvement Inc., a subsidiary of e-commerce business CSC Generation, has won a bankruptcy auction for home-decor retailer Z Gallerie LLC with a bid valued at $20.3 million. DirectBuy’s bid comprises $7.7 million cash and $12.6 million in debt provided by KKR Credit Advisors and B. Riley Financial Inc, according to papers filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del. Further details are sparse. The bottom line, though, from a BDC standpoint is that FSK ($30.2mn) and non-traded Sierra Income ($4.4mn) are likely to have to book an almost complete Realized Loss. At March 31, 2019 the respective values were a;ready down to $4.8mn and $1.4mn. The final discount could be higher. We note that KKR Credit Advisors is providing some of the financing, but don’t yet know how that relates to FSK , which is a JV between KKR and FS Investments. In any case, this is a reverse for both companies, albeit one that has been on non accrual for several quarters.

 

TOMS Shoes: Ratings Affirmed by Moody’s.

Under-performing shoe manufacturer TOMS Shoes, LLC saw its Moody’s ratings affirmed. The senior debt remains at Caa3, as did the Corporate Rating. The outlook was downgraded from stable to negative. Apparently, Moody’s is worrying that leverage is too high to expect 2020 debt maturities to be met in the ordinary course. This is a long standing under-performing credit that dates back to 2016, so no great surprise. BDC exposure – all in the afore mentioned 2020 debt- is $9.3mn, equally split between related BDCs MAIN and HMS Income, which have written down the debt by (18%) as of March 2019. The discount has been higher in the past, but actions such as these suggest we should be worried. After all, 2020 is just round the corner.

Monitronics: Enters Into Restructuring Agreement With Creditors

On May 20, 2019, the wholly-owned subsidiary of publicly traded Ascent Capital Group (ASCMA) – Monitronics International Inc.entered into a Restructuring Support Agreement (“RSA”) with its latest creditor. This is part of a major restructuring effort that will reduce Monitronics debt and see the parent company merge into the parent as part of a pre-packaged bankruptcy. BDC exposure aggregates $21mn, spread over 5 public and non- public funds.

Pier 1: S&P Warns Chapter 11 Filing Possible

USA Today reported on April 25, 2019 that S&P warned that the home goods retailer Pier 1 might be headed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. That should be a surprise to no one as the company is caught up in the retail revolution; same store sales are dropping; a turnaround plan has failed to be effective and management has been changed, etc. S&P dropped its debt rating to CCC- from CCC+. Yes, the writing is all over the wall.There are two sister BDCs with $16.3mn in senior debt  exposure to the beleaguered company which has already been written down by a quarter. Those are MAIN and non-traded HMS Income. Our assessment of potential income and realized losses remains the same as expressed in the Company File on April 17, 2019.

Payless Inc: Lenders & Creditors Question Role of Majority Shareholder Post-Bankruptcy

On April 29, 2019 USA Today published an in-depth article regarding disputes occurring between the majority shareholder of twice bankrupt Payless, Inc. (aka Payless Shoesource) and certain creditors and lenders. With the future of Payless very much in doubt, the full repayment of $21mn of secured debt held by two BDCs is also questionable. Just a year ago when Payless went bankrupt for the first time, secured lenders got out whole. This time some of those same BDC lenders who funded the Company post bankruptcy may have a harder time collecting 100 cents on the dollar. See the Company File for all the details and our view.

Templar Energy: CEO Resigns

On April 26, 2019 troubled oil exploration company Templar Energy, LLC announced the resignation of its long time CEO and founder David D. Le Norman. He is to be replaced by Chief Operating Officer of Le Norman Operating, LLC Brian Simmons.  Mr Le Norman remains Chairman of Templar Energy. That sounds like bad news for the $12.8mn still invested at cost by two non-traded BDCs owned by FS investment & KKR: FSIC II and FSIC III. The exposure appears to be in the form of preferred and equity received as part of a massive debt for equity swap entered into in 2016 that saw $128mn of BDC second lien debt converted. However, judging by the valuation of the BDC stakes at 12/31/2018 – discounted by as much as (93%) the company’s performance remains problematic. Mr Le Norman’s departure cannot help.

Fuse Media: Files For Bankruptcy

On April 23, 2019, Jennifer Lopez backed Fuse Media filed for a pre-packaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy, seeking to unload $200mn of debt of $242mn on books. For only BDC with exposure – TCPC – that likely means the realizing of the $0.300mn invested at cost and already written down to zero. We have no Company File as Fuse Media was not a material investment.

Sequential Brands: Sells Two Major Brands

On April 17, 2019 Sequential Brands Group, Inc. sold two major brand lines to Marquee Brands LLC for $175mn and an earn-out. The Company plans to use a substantial portion of the proceeds from the transaction to pay down debt. The transaction is expected to close in the IIQ 2019. BDC exposure to the Company is high at $295mn, in first lien, second lien and equity. See the Company File for our updated View.

Charming Charlie: Arranges Revolver Financing

On April 18, 2019 two specialist  lenders announced the closing of a $35.00mn asset-backed revolving line of credit for troubled mall retailer Charming Charlie, intended to finance working capital. The two lenders are White Oak Commercial Finance and Second Avenue Capital Partners. There are 3 BDCs with $37mn of debt and equity exposure to the Company, led by TCRD. At 12/31/2018, the 2023 Term Loan outstanding was on non-accrual. For what this financing might mean for the Company’s prospects see the Company File.

Pier 1 Imports: Reports IQ 2019 Financial Results

Another retailer is having serious problems: Pier 1 Imports. The Company reported very poor IQ 2019 results. We’ve updated the Company File. The two BDCs (MAIN & HMS Income) with $16mn at risk must be worried about further unrealized write-downs in the short run and – medium term – non accrual of interest and realized losses.

Fusion Connect: Lenders Agree To Standstill Agreement

Publicly traded Fusion Connect has entered into a Forbearance Agreement with its Revolver lenders and 70%+ of first lien lenders. As the press release states : “Under the terms of the Forbearance Agreement, these first lien lenders have agreed not to exercise the remedies available to them related to Fusion’s decision not to make its scheduled principal payments due on April 1 and 2, 2019 and certain other defaults under the Company’s credit agreement. The Forbearance Agreement extends until April 29, 2019 unless certain specified events occur”.  In the interim, the Company has hired turnaround advisers and appropriate legal counsel in an effort to restructure the balance sheet out of bankruptcy. However, the odds are stacked against the highly leveraged business. See the Company File for the BDC Credit Reporter’s View. The two BDCs with $18mn in exposure appear to be in a first lien loan due in 2023. The publicly traded debt – valued by the BDCs at close to par at 12/31/2018 – currently trades at a (25%) discount). That suggests CMFN and GARS are likely to have to write down their debt by close to $5mn or more in the IQ 2019 results and face the risk of additional Realized and Unrealized Losses. The most immediate impact is likely to be interruption of interest income: $1.1mn on an annual basis for CMFN and $0.7mn for GARS.