☎️Who Knew? People Don’t Use Landlines Anymore? (Short the Peso, Short US-denominated EM Debt).☎️

We’re all for a reprieve from retail and energy distress. Hallelujah.

Maxcom USA Telecom Inc. is a telecommunications provider deploying “smart-build” approaches to “last mile” connectivity (read: modems, handsets and set-up boxes) for enterprises, residential customers and governmental entities in Mexico — which is really just a fancy way of saying that it provides local and long-distance voice, data, high speed, dedicated internet access and VoIP tech, among other things, to customers.* It purports to be cutting edge and entrepreneurial, claiming “a history of being the first providers in Mexico to introduce new services,” including (a) the first broadband in 2005, (b) the first “triple-play” (cable, voice and broadband) in 2005, and (c) the first paid tv services over copper network using IP…in 2007. That’s where the “history” stops, however, which likely goes a long way — reminder, it’s currently the year 2019 — towards explaining why this f*cker couldn’t generate enough revenue to service its ~$103.4mm in debt.** Innovators!!

And speaking of that debt, it’s primarily the $103.4mm in “Old Notes” due in 2020 that precipitated this prepackaged bankruptcy filing (in the Southern District of New York).***

The Old Notes derive from a prior prepackaged bankruptcy — in 2013 (PETITION Note: not a “Two-Year Rule” violation) — and were exchanged for what were then outstanding 11% senior notes due in 2014. These Old Notes have a “step-up interest rate,” which means that, over time, the interest rate…uh…steps up…as in, increases upward/up-like. The rate currently stands at 8%. Unfortunately, the company doesn’t have revenue step-ups/upwardness/upseedayzee to offset the interest expense increase; rather, the company “…incurred losses of $4.9 million for the three months ended June 30, 2019, as compared to losses of $2.9 million for the three months ended June 30, 2018, and losses of $16 million for the year ended December 31, 2018, compared to losses of $.8 million for the year ended December 31, 2017….” Compounding matters are, among other things, the negative effects of decreased interest income and foreign currency exchange rates (the dollar is too damn strong!).**** The closure of the residential segment also, naturally, affected net revenue.


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💩There’s No End in Sight for Retail Pain (Long the “Playbook”)💩

Retail, retail, retail.

Brutal. Absolutely B.R.U.T.A.L.

Avenue Stores LLC, a speciality women’s plus-size retailer with approximately 2,000 employees across its NJ-based HQ* and 255 leased stores,** is the latest retailer to find its way into bankruptcy court. On Friday, August 16, Avenue Stores LLC filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in the District of Delaware. Like Dressbarn, another plus-size apparel retailer that’s in the midst of going the way of the dodo, any future iteration of the Avenue “brand” will likely exist only on the interwebs: the company intends to shutter its brick-and-mortar footprint.

What is Avenue? In addition to a select assortment of national brands, Avenue is a seller of (i) mostly “Avenue” private label apparel, (ii) intimates/swimwear and other wares under the “Loralette” brand and (iii) wide-width shoes under the “Cloudwalkers” brand. The company conducts e-commerce via “Avenue.com” and “Loralette.com.” All of this “IP” is the crux of the bankruptcy. More on this below. 

But, first, a digression: when we featured Versa Capital Management LP’s Gregory Segall in a Notice of Appearance segment back in April, we paid short shrift to the challenges of retail. We hadn’t had an investor make an NOA before and so we focused more broadly on the middle market and investing rather than Versa’s foray into retail and its ownership of Avenue Stores LLC. Nevertheless, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, we can now see some foreshadowing baked into Mr. Siegel’s answers — in particular, his focus on Avenue’s e-commerce business and the strategic downsizing of the brick-and-mortar footprint. Like many failed retail enterprises before it, the future — both near and long-term — of Avenue Stores is marked by these categorical distinctions. Store sales are approximately 64% of sales with e-commerce at approximately 36% (notably, he cited 33% at the time of the NOA). 

A brand founded in 1987, Avenue has had an up-and-down history. It was spun off out of Limited Brands Inc. and renamed in 1989; it IPO’d in 1992; it was then taken private in 2007. Shortly thereafter, it struggled and filed for bankruptcy in early 2012 and sold as a going-concern to an acquisition entity, Avenue Stores LLC (under a prior name), for “about $32 million.” The sale closed after all of two months in bankruptcy. The holding company that owns 100% of the membership interests in Avenue Stores LLC, the operating company, is 99%-owned by Versa Capital Management. 

Performance for the business has been bad, though the net loss isn’t off the charts like we’ve seen with other recent debtors in chapter 11 cases (or IPO candidates filing S-1s, for that matter). Indeed, the company had negative EBITDA of $886k for the first five months of 2019 on $75.3mm in sales. Nevertheless, the loss was enough for purposes of the debtors’ capital structure. The debtors are party to an asset-backed loan (“ABL”) memorialized by a credit agreement with PNC Bank NA, a lender that, lately, hasn’t been known for suffering fools. The loan is for $45mm with a $6mm first-in-last-out tranche and has a first lien on most of the debtors’ collateral. 

The thing about ABLs is that availability thereunder is subject to what’s called a “borrowing base.” A borrowing base determines how much availability there is out of the overall credit facility. Said another way, the debtors may not always have access to the full facility and therefore can’t just borrow $45mm willy-nilly; they have to comply with certain periodic tests. For instance, the value of the debtors’ inventory and receivables, among other things, must be at a certain level for availability to remain. If the value doesn’t hold up, the banks can close the spigot. If you’re a business with poor sales, slim margins, diminishing asset quality (i.e., apparel inventory), and high cash burn, you’re generally not in very good shape when it comes to these tests. With specs like those, your liquidity is probably already tight. A tightened borrowing base will merely exacerbate the problem.


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⛽️Oil & Gas Continues to Be a Free-for-All (Long Houston’s Restaurant Scene)⛽️

Speaking of borrowing bases and being f*cked, there’s also Alta Mesa Holdings LP(“AMH”), a Houston-based E&P company focused on the Anadarko stack. See, the funny thing about asset-backed loans is that when the asset quality deteriorates, a bank, to no one’s surprise, wants to reduce its credit exposure and borrower risk. This is why lenders bake in “redetermination rights” into their credit documents; they want the flexibility to ratchet down their commitment to a borrower should the borrower, say, sh*t the bed in a big big way. 

In case you haven’t been paying attention, oil and gas, as an industry, has been sh*tting the bed in a big BIG way. 

Hence, Alta Mesa’s SEC filing earlier this week that it received notice pursuant to its credit agreement, that the borrowing base has been reduced from $370mm to $200mm. YIKES. 

Let’s, for sh*ts and giggles, parse out the filing, shall we? 

“AMH’s combined borrowings and letters of credit outstanding exceed the new borrowing base by $162.4 million.” 

PETITION Note: Ruh roh. Just like that, the lenders have put the squeeze on AMH. AMH meet world of hurt. World of hurt, meet AMH.


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❓How’s Oil and Gas Doing. (Spoiler Alert: Not Well)❓

Callback to May 12’s “Fast Forward - Oil & Gas is SO 2019.” We wrote:

In March’s “Oil and Gas Continues to Crack (Long Houston-Based Hotels),” we wrote:

The bankruptcy waiting room is becoming standing room only for oil and gas companies despite oil resting near 2019 highs (even after a rough 2% decline on Friday). We’ve previously mentioned Jones Energy ($JONE)Sanchez Energy Corporation ($SN)Southcross Energy Partners LP ($SXEE)Vanguard Natural Resources, Alta Mesa Holdings LP ($AMR) and Chaparral Energy Inc. ($CHAP) in “⛽️Is Oil & Gas Distress Back?⛽️.” Based on earnings reports or other SEC filings this week, add Emerge Energy Services LP ($EMES), EP Energy Corporation ($EPE) and Approach Resources Inc. ($AREX) to the list.

And:

Here’s the bottom line: both amend-and-extended and formally restructured oil and gas companies were an option on oil prices. That option is out of the money for a number of these companies. The end result will be an uptick in Texas’ hotel reservations and bankruptcy fees. And soon.

We also wrote:

Legacy Reserves Inc. ($LGCY) is yet another E&P company that looks like it may be destined for the bankruptcy bin. The company announced this week that it is evaluating strategic alternatives. It subsequently filed its 10-K which included going concern language and, significantly, confirmation that the company’s lenders had agreed to extend the company’s maturity under its credit agreement from April 1 to May 31, 2019. This is like a good movie needing a bit more production time prior to theatric release: usually, the movie ultimately it gets released. Likewise, this will ultimately end up in bankruptcy court.

Let’s take stock of the bankruptcy bodybag count since then:

  • Jones Energy ✅;

  • Southcross Energy Partners LP ✅;

  • Vanguard Natural Resources ✅;

  • Sanchez Energy Corporation ✅;

  • Emerge Energy Services LP ✅;

  • Legacy Reserves ✅.

Meanwhile, EP Energy Corporation ($EPEG) reportedly just missed its $40mm interest payment due under the indenture governing its 8.000% 1.5 Lien Notes due 2025 (due on August 15, 2019). Of course, there’s also been a number of private oil-and-gas companies 


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⚡️Update: Interlogic Outsourcing Inc.⚡️

We wrote about this bankruptcy filing on August 11. We noted the highly competitive landscape confronting outsourced payroll, benefits and human resources services companies. Because the bankruptcy filing wasn’t complete at the time of publication, however, we didn’t have the opportunity to add that the company descended into bankruptcy primarily because its sole owner (fraudulently?) mismanaged the company and misappropriated approximately $90mm. Uh oh.

The result? A free fall into bankruptcy one month after an independent director took over management of the business, a CRO came on board (Huron) and an expedited sale process commenced. This world being the savage world it is, competitors started picking off company clients and so the value of this company appears to be dissipating before our eyes with each passing day. The company has a $7.8mm DIP commitment in place from pre-petition lender, KeyBank NA.


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💩Yes, Let’s Get Right to It: Retail Blows. The End.💩

 

You have to respect the brevity deployed by Lolli and Pops Inc., the sweets retailer that filed for bankruptcy in the District of Delaware on Monday. In a shockingly-yet-refreshingly terse 8-page first day declaration, the company and its affiliated debtors’ CRO justified the bankruptcy filing by saying, in effect, the following: retail blows. The funny thing is that the document could have been even shorter. We’ll give it a shot:


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⚡️Summer Announcement⚡️

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As we’ve previously announced, we’re a bit more bandwidth constrained now that we’re deep into summer and so we’re going to use this opportunity to, among other things, (a) update some processes on the backend and (b) experiment with content distribution. For instance, we never actually A/B tested whether recurring Wednesday and Sunday a$$-kicking briefings were the right way to deliver our content. What’s an A/B test, you ask?

Consider a scenario where you know you’re going to be pitching juicy retail mandates 20 straight times against XYZ Group, a competitor restructuring advisor. You can go in with the same basic pitch framework each time and roll the dice but, ultimately, you’ll have no data to judge your strategy. You might as well just be throwing darts.


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📦Nerds Lament: Subscription Box Company Goes BK📦

We’re old enough to remember when subscription boxes were all the rage. The e-commerce trend became so explosive that the Washington Post estimated in 2014 that there were anywhere between 400 and 600 different subscription box services out there. We reckon that — given the the arguably-successful-because-it-got-to-an-IPO-but-then-atrocious-public-foray by Blue Apron Inc. ($APRN) — the number today is on the lower end of the range (if not even lower) as many businesses failed to prove out the business model and manage shipping expense.

And so it was only a matter of time before one of them declared bankruptcy.

Earlier this morning, Loot Crate Inc., a Los Angeles-based subscription service which provides monthly boxes of geek- and gaming-related merchandise (“Comic-con in a box,” including toys, clothing, books and comics tied to big pop culture and geek franchises) filed for bankruptcy in the District of Delaware.* According to a press release, the company intends to use the chapter 11 process to effectuate a 363 sale of substantially all of its assets to a newly-formed buyer, Loot Crate Acquisition LLC. The company secured a $10mm DIP credit facility to fund the cases from Money Chest LLC, an investor in the business. The company started in 2012.

Speaking of investors in the business, this one got a $18.5mm round of venture financingfrom the likes of Upfront VenturesSterling.VC (the venture arm of Sterling Equities, the owner of the New York Mets), and Downey Ventures, the venture arm of none other than Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr. At one point, this investment appeared to be a smashing success: the company reportedly had over 600k subscribers and more than $100mm in annualized revenue. It delivered to 35 countries. Inc Magazine ranked it #1 on its “Fastest Growing Private Companies” listDeloitte had it listed first in its 2016 Technology Fast 500 Winners list. Loot Crate must have had one kicka$$ PR person!

But life comes at you fast.

By 2018, the wheels were already coming off. Mark Suster, a well-known and prolific VC from Upfront Ventures, stepped off the board along with two other directors. The company hired Dendera Advisory LLC, a boutique merchant bank, for a capital raise.** As we pointed out in early ‘18, apparently nobody was willing to put a new equity check into this thing, despite all of the accolades. Of course, allegations of sexual harassment don’t exactly help. Ultimately, the company had no choice but to go the debt route: in August 2018, it secured $23mm in new financing from Atalaya Capital Management LP. Per the company announcement:

This financing, led by Atalaya Capital Management LP ("Atalaya") and supported by several new investors (including longstanding commercial partners, NECA and Bioworld Merchandising), will enable Loot Crate to bolster its existing subscription lines and improve the overall customer experience, while also enabling new product launches, growth in new product lines and the establishment of new distribution channels.

Shortly thereafter, it began selling its boxes on Amazon Inc. ($AMZN). When a DTC e-commerce business suddenly starts relying on Amazon for distribution and relinquishes control of the customer relationship, one has to start to wonder. 🤔

And, so, now it is basically being sold for parts. Per the company announcement:

"During the sale process we will have the financial resources to purchase the goods and services necessary to fulfill our Looters' needs and continue the high-quality service and support they have come to expect from the Loot Crate team," Mr. Davis said.

That’s a pretty curious statement considering the Better Business Bureau opened an investigation into the company back in late 2018. Per the BBB website:

According to BBB files, consumers allege not receiving the purchases they paid for. Furthermore consumers allege not being able to get a response with the details of their orders or refunds. On September 4, 2018 the BBB contacted the company in regards to our concerns about the amount and pattern of complaints we have received. On October 30, 2018 the company responded stating "Loot Crate implemented a Shipping Status page to resolve any issues with delays here: http://loot.cr/shippingstatus[.]

In fact, go on Twitter and you’ll see a lot of recent complaints:

High quality service, huh? Riiiiiiight. These angry customers are likely to learn the definition of “unsecured creditor.”

Good luck getting those refunds, folks. The purchase price obviously won’t clear the $23mm in debt which means that general unsecured creditors (i.e., customers, among other groups) and equity investors will be wiped out.***

Sadly, this is another tale about a once-high-flying startup that apparently got too close to the sun. And, unfortunately, a number of people will lose their jobs as a result.

Market froth has helped a number of these companies survive. When things do eventually turn, we will, unfortunately, see a lot more companies that once featured prominently in rankings and magazine covers fall by the wayside.

*We previously wrote about Loot Crate here, back in February 2018.

**Dendera, while not a well-known firm in restructuring circles, has been making its presence known in recent chapter 11 filings; it apparently had a role in Eastern Mountain Sports and Energy XXI.

***The full details of the bankruptcy filing aren’t out yet but this seems like a pretty obvious result.

⚡️Here a Sale. There a Sale. Everywhere a Sale Sale! (Long Bankruptcy Code Section 363)⚡️

In a nutshell, bankruptcy code section 363 allows a debtor to sell assets free and clear of liens and encumbrances.

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In other words, a company can sell itself and the buyer can leave a bunch of bad sh*t behind. It’s a powerful tool and helps the buyer avoid any sort of “fraudulent conveyance” liability down the road. We’re seeing a proliferation of 363-based bankruptcy cases. In the last week, for instance, Barneys New York Inc., iPic-Gold Class Entertainment LLC, and Perkins & Marie Callender’s LLC all filed with the intent of pursuing sales (PETITION Note: see, also, Jack Cooper Ventures Inc. below).


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⛽️Halcon Resources Poised to be the Next Oil & Gas Chapter 22 (Long Kerosene)⛽️

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Nearly three years after its last prepackaged plan of reorganization wiped $1.8 billion of debt off of the company’s balance sheet, onshore E&P company, Halcon Resources Corporation ($HKRS), is once again on the bankruptcy courthouse steps with another prepackaged bankruptcy. This company is burning debt like a baaaaaaaaaaaawse.

In the prior bankruptcy, the company eliminated $1b of 13% ‘22 senior secured third lien notes, $316mm of 9.75% ‘20 senior notes, $297mm of 8.875% ‘21 senior notes, $37mm of 9.25% ‘22 senior notes, and $290mm of 8% ‘20 senior convertible notes. The majority of the equity in the reorganized entity went to the third lien noteholders, with other equity going to unsecured holders (15.5%), convertible noteholders (4%) and common stockholders (4%). That equity holds very little value today. The stock traded publicly up until July 23, 2019, when the Nasdaq delisted the company’s shares ($HR) and the stock began trading on OTC pink sheets under the $HKRS symbol.

Meanwhile, here’s what the company’s current debt sitch looked like this as of the most recent 10-Q:


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📽A $5.7mm “Human Error” (Short Bankruptcy Projections)📽

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Never try to cover sh*t up in corporate America. That is f*ck up #1 and a sure-fire way to get yourself pink-slipped. When you screw up in corporate America — and you WILL screw up in corporate America — the right approach is to squelch the temptation to sweep that f*ckup under the rug and, instead, fess up to the mistake with a solution in hand. That last part is key: accepting responsibility isn’t enough. “Responsibility” in corporate America includes having a fix for the issue.

A bit over a week ago, in the Z Gallerie LLC bankruptcy matter, the professionals kinda sorta followed this protocol.

In a statement filed with the bankruptcy court (Docket 464), the company described how it achieved the Herculean feat of selling Z Gallerie’s abysmal business (for ~$20mm) and confirming a plan of confirmation three-months-to-the-day from the petition date.* The company emphasized that it was incentivized to move the cases rapidly to (a) avoid a liquidation trigger under its DIP credit facility, (b) preserve value for the company’s prospective buyer by avoiding a long, drawn-out in-court proceeding that would surely have the effect of leaking value in today’s complex dog-eat-dog retail environment, and (c) “ensure[] that those who provide actual, necessary benefits to the company during its distress are paid in full.” To do this, however, the company had to do a wee bit of forecasting; it had to estimate its administrative claims to ensure that the company would have enough cash at sale closing to satisfy those claims.

The company performed this analysis and, ultimately, the company’s interim CEO declared to the bankruptcy court that, indeed, it, would have enough cash to satisfy priority and administrative claims under the plan (including DIP claims, professional fee claims, and other administrative and priority claims). But, as it turns out — and as PETITION readers know ALL TO WELL from our ongoing review of feasibility projections — forecasts are subject to, from time to time, “significant errors and omissions.” Or, put another way, “human error.” Or put another way, these mathematicians missed their numbers by $5.7mm. Or put ANOTHER way, this case puts the PETITION “Two-Year Rule” in an entirely new light. It’s one thing to realize that your projections are off within two years; it’s an entirely different story to realize you’re off within two months! 😬

So, what happened?

Up until roughly a week ago, the estate had been administered by a “Wind-Down Trust” that had been spearheaded by the company’s CFO. That CFO, however, was apparently too busy auditioning for a new job — uh, serving as DirectBuy’s main “transition” point of contact — to properly administer the trust. In a statement (Docket 465) in which the interim CEO acknowledged that he’s “ultimately responsible” for the estate, he simultaneously goes to great lengths to establish a record of ineptitude on the part of the company’s CFO. He failed to reconcile accounts, he failed to accurately predict invoices from the company’s delivery companies, etc. etc.** This is what the delta looks like:

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💰How are the Investment Banks Doing?(Long Chapter 15s?)💰

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On Sunday, we wrote about the stellar earnings reports from Evercore Inc. ($EVR) and Houlihan Lokey ($HLI). Are they outliers?

Apparently…no.

PJT Partners Inc. ($PJT) reported earnings this week and they, too, knocked it out of the park. The firm reported a 28% increase in revenues YOY ($167mm) and a 35% increase in advisory revenue ($133mm). These guys are killing it. Regarding the restructuring team, CEO Paul Taubman said:

Revenues grew significantly in the second quarter compared to the prior year and are ahead of last year’s levels for the six-month period. Our Restructuring business maintained its leadership position, ranking Number One in US and global completed restructurings for the first half of 2019. Our outlook for the full year remains essentially unchanged, notwithstanding near record low interest rates, historically low default rates and extremely benign credit conditions, we expect restructuring revenues for the full year to be flat to only modestly down. Despite this muted macro backdrop, we are working on an increased number of Restructuring mandates, which should serve us well entering 2020.

In addition to pounding his chest, Mr. Taubman provided some market commentary as well — particularly with respect to the notion that all of the “dry powder” in the market will impact M&A and distressed situations and Europe:


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⚡️Data, Baby, Data (Long Ambitious Lawyers)⚡️

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Man. The hits just keep on coming for retailers. 

First, a callback to 2014. 

Back in 2014, Twilio Inc. ($TWLO) was a lesser known private company that solved a basic problem: it allowed software developers to programmatically make and receive phone calls, send and receive text messages, and perform other communication functions using its web service APIs. In English? It connected businesses to customers. It was the ultimate "be where your customers are" power move: increasingly, customers are writing or reacting to texts. Twilio enables text message blasts to large groups. This was a total game changer for businesses: it gave them an avenue to connect in a more personal way to their customers and rise above the muck of email (PETITION Note: which is not to say that we don't LOVE email). And now Twilio is an a $18b market cap company:


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💰How are the Investment Banks Doing?(Long Increasing Fees?)💰

Evercore Inc. ($EVR) reported earnings this week and, well, inflation exists somewhere. The company increased adjusted revenue by 18% YOY to $535.8mm. Net income increased by nearly $18mm. The bank reported a decline in the number and dollar volume of its deals but…BUT…numbers nevertheless improved thanks to a strong move in investment banking advisory fees (up 22% YOY). With 81 earned fees of $1mm or more compared to 85 last year, the company appears to be adding clients and raising fees. Because the bank doesn’t delineate restructuring revenues separate and apart from other advisory services, it’s unclear to what degree restructuring is adding or detracting from performance — from either a deal volume or fee perspective. 

Houlihan Lokey ($HLI) also reported earnings; it notched a 14% revenue increase YOY ($250mm) and a 44% net income increase. Financial restructuring revenues increased 57%! Surprisingly, however, the bank noted that “[r]evenue increased primarily as a result of an increase in the number of closed transactions, partially offset by a reduction in the average transaction fee.” Curious. 


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🕸Spiderman Can’t Save Everyone (Short iPic Entertainment)🕸

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Most moviegoers probably think $17 for a movie ticket is expensive enough and so, more likely than not, they go to the nearby AMC or Regal theater to get their latest shot of Disney-fed superhero drivel. For those who REALLY want to make an event out the movies, however, there is another option: iPic Entertainment Inc’s ($IPIC) “upscale” theater experience. This “experience” includes cocktails, plush pleather couches and waitered food service. All of that pampering can cost upwards of $30/ticket — and that’s just for the movie. Add in the food and this chain probably contributes its fair share to the personal bankruptcy market.

The chain has 123 locations across 16 states, including California, Florida and New York City. How on earth does it make sense to go that route when a month of Netflix costs a fraction of that? Throw in some “chill” and, well, it seems pretty obvious which option has more appeal (insert creepy wink here). Spoiler alert: it ain’t iPIC. 


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😬Securitization Run Amok (Long the ABS Market)😬

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On Sunday, in “💥Securitize it All, We Say💥,” we continued our ongoing “What to Make of the Credit Cycle” series with discussion of, among several other things, Otis, a new startup that intends to securitize cultural assets and collectables like sneakers, comic books, works of art, watches and more. We quipped, “What isn’t getting securitized these days?” If we do say so ourselves, that is a: GOOD. EFFING. QUESTION. Why is securitization all of the rage these days? EVEN. BETTER. EFFING. QUESTION. The answer: YIELD, BABY, YIELD.

Back in early June, Bloomberg’s Brian Chappatta reported on the rise of “esoteric asset-backed securities known as ‘whole business securitizations.’” Restaurant chains with large swaths of franchisees, long-standing operations, and dependable brands, he wrote, are using these instruments to access cheaper financing in a yield-starved market. He wrote:

The securities are about as straightforward as the name implies — franchise-focused companies sell virtually all of their revenue-generating assets (thus, “whole business”) into bankruptcy-remote, special-purpose entities. Investors then buy pieces of the securitizations, which tend to have credit ratings five or six levels higher than the companies themselves, according to S&P Global Ratings. Creditors take comfort in knowing the cash flows are isolated from bankruptcy.

Cumulative gross issuance of whole-business securitizations reached about $35 billion at the end of 2018, compared with about $13 billion just four years earlier, according to S&P. The past two years have been banner years for the structures, with $7.9 billion offered in 2017 and $6.6 billion last year, according to data from Bloomberg News’s Charles Williams.

These structures are contributing to the deluge of BBB-rated supply.


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🍩Forever21 is Forever F*cking Up🍩

On one hand, you have to respect the desire to sure up liquidity by entering into partnerships. On the other hand, well this:


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⚡️What to Make of the Credit Cycle. Part 28. (Long Financial Ingenuity.)⚡️

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Nobody questions that we’re late stage at this point. Lest you have any doubt, consider the following:

1. Enhanced CLOs

Per The Wall Street Journal:

A growing number of money managers are embracing a new strategy designed to benefit from volatility in junk-rated corporate loans, a sign of building worries about riskier borrowers and the market that supports them.

Since November of last year, three different money managers have issued $1.6 billion of so-called enhanced collateralized loan obligations that are set up to hold a much larger amount of loans with extremely low credit ratings than typical CLOs. At least two more managers are expected to follow suit in the coming months.

The emergence of the enhanced CLOs underscores investors’ growing belief the U.S. economy is due for a recession after more than a decade of expansion. It also reflects particular concerns about corporate loans, starting with a decline in their average credit ratings. Since 2011, the amount of loans rated B or B-minus—just above near-rock bottom triple-C ratings—have ballooned to 39% of the market from 17%, according to LCD, a unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence.

CLOs are weird beasts with certain idiosyncratic limitations. As just one example, many CLOs are limited to a portfolio that includes no more than 7.5% of CCC-rated loans. Upon a rash of downgrades during a downturn, this would force these CLOs to sell their holdings, pushing supply into the markets and inevitably driving down loan prices. An opportunistic buyer could stand to benefit from this opportunity. These newly established CLOs won’t have these constraints; they could “stock up to half their portfolios with triple-C debt.

By way of example:

Investors say there is ample evidence that the limited ability of CLOs to hold triple-C loans creates unusual price moves in the $1.2 trillion leveraged loan market.

In one example, the price of a loan issued by the business-services company iQor Holdings Inc. dropped from around 98 cents on the dollar to 85 cents last summer immediately after Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings downgraded the loan to triple-C. Data showed CLO holdings of the loan falling sharply at the time.

Ellington Management GroupZ Capital Group and HPS Investment Partners are the funds looking to take advantage of these market moves.

2. Retail CDOs

Ahhhhhh, Wall Street. JP Morgan Chase & Co. ($JPM) apparently wants to expand markets for credit derivatives, including synthetic CDOs. Per the International Financing Review:

The US bank launched its Credit Nexus platform earlier this year, according to a person familiar with the matter. The platform is designed to simplify the cumbersome process investors usually face to trade derivatives, including credit-default swaps, CDS options and synthetic collateralised debt obligations, according to a client presentation obtained by IFR.


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💥Higher Interest Rates Eff Mortgage Originator (Long FED Fear of POTUS). New Chapter 11 Filing - Stearns Holdings LLC💥

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Hallelujah! Something is going on out in the world aside from the #retailapocalypse and distressed oil and gas. Here, Blackstone Capital Partners-owned Stearns Holdings LLCand six affiliated debtors (the “debtors”) have filed for bankruptcy in the Southern District of New York because of…drumroll please…rising interest rates. That’s right: the FED has claimed a victim. Stephen Moore and Judy Shelton must be smirking their faces off.

The debtors are a private mortgage company in the business of originating residential mortgages; it is the 20th largest mortgage lender in the US, operating in 50 states. The debtors generate revenue by producing mortgages and then selling them to government-sponsored enterprises such as Ginnie MaeFannie Mae and Freddie Mac. To originate loans, the debtors require a lot of debt; they also require favorable interest rates. Favorable interest rates = lower cost of residential home purchases = increased market demand and sales activity for homes = higher rate or origination.

Except, there’s been an itsy bitsy teeny weeny problem. Interest rates have been going up. Per the debtors:

The mortgage origination business is significantly impacted by interest rate trends. In mid-2016, the 10-year Treasury was 1.60%. Following the U.S. presidential election, it rose to a range of 2.30% to 2.45% and maintained that range throughout 2017. The 10-year Treasury rate increased to over 3.0% for most of 2018. The rise in rates during this time period reduced the overall size of the mortgage market, increasing competition and significantly reducing market revenues.

Said another way: mortgage rates are pegged off the 10-year treasury rate and rising rates chilled the housing market. With buyers running for the hills, originators can’t pump supply. Hence, diminished revenues. And diminished revenues are particularly problematic when you have high-interest debt with an impending maturity.

This is where the business model really comes into play. Here’s a diagram illustrating how this all works:


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💥We Have a Feasibility Problem. Part VII (Repeat Bankruptcy = Not Charming)💥

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Last month, Ann M. Miller and Lorie Beers, Managing Directors in Cowen Inc’s ($COWN)Special Situations Group published a constructive piece in the TMA Journal asking, “Chapter 22: Should Retailers Get a Second Chance at a Fresh Start?” They provide (i) a solid overview of the requirements of section 1129(a)(11) of the Bankruptcy Code governing confirmation of a plan (read: where the “feasibility” requirement comes from),* (ii) an acknowledgement of the chapter 22 problem — particularly in retail,** and (iii) a summary of the Gymboree and Payless chapter 22s (which we wrote about here and here, respectively). They write:

Strict constructionists would argue that the Bankruptcy Code requires an affirmative finding of feasibility and that retail debtors are, for the most part, incapable of meeting that burden unless they have changed their business model to account for the Amazon Effect or addressed other challenges with the business model. They would also argue that the burden of establishing feasibility requires an independent evidentiary showing and that the support of the preponderance of the constituencies is not enough.

This view assumes that a Chapter 22 filing is indicative of failure and somehow blemishes the bankruptcy system as a whole. Strict constructionists also argue that sophisticated creditor constituencies game the bankruptcy system inappropriately by using their leverage in the RSA process to extract concessions.

But is that an appropriate view? Shouldn’t those whose recoveries are at stake have the opportunity to roll the dice to see if their plan can work? And why should an extended battle over feasibility, which would add additional costs to the bankruptcy proceeding, be tolerated if no one wants to prosecute such a challenge? (emphasis added)

Regarding the Gymboree and Payless chapter 22s, specifically, they write:

The two cases raise several questions in the area of feasibility. In the case of Gymboree, unless the company addressed the disruption it faced from the Amazon Effect, was any amount of debt reduction capable of producing a feasible plan? Maybe not, but does that mean that the initial Chapter 11 plan confirmation should not have been attempted and the initial case should have moved directly to a sale or liquidation? After all, for nearly two years, many people retained their jobs, landlords had tenants, vendors continued to have a counterparty with whom to have a commercial relationship, and creditors received the value they negotiated for their claims.

In the case of Payless, the problems went beyond disruption. Missteps in the business plan that predicated the first filing continued after emergence, almost promising a subsequent filing. But again, initially at least, jobs were saved, tenancies were preserved, and creditors received what they bargained for. (emphasis added)

These are all valid questions and fair points — especially when you see things like this:


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