☎️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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💩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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📦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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📽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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💰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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😬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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⚡️Update: Trickle-Down Healthcare Distress (Long Electronic Beds, Short Nana). Part I.⚡️

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We scoured far and wide to see whether there might be some businesses that would get hammered by the uptick in healthcare distress we’ve all witnessed of late. In early June, we took a bit of a stab in the dark (Members’-only access):

There has been notable bankruptcy activity in the healthcare industry this year — from continuing care retirement communities to the acute care space. When end users capitulate and need to streamline operations and cut costs, who gets harmed farther down the chain? It’s a good question: after all, there’s always some trickle down effect.

Our internal search for answers to this question recently brought us to Charlotte-based Joerns Healthcare, a “premier supplier and service provider in post-acute care.” The company sells supportive care beds, transport systems, respiratory care solutions and more.

Among other things, we noted how the Joerns’ term loan maturing May 2020 “was among one of the worst performing loans in the month of May — quoted in the low 70s, down approximately 15% since April.” We insinuated that a bankruptcy filing may not be too far away.

We didn’t expect it to be in court a mere six weeks later.

On Monday, Joerns WoundCo Holdings Inc. and 13 affiliated entities filed a prepackaged bankruptcy in the District of Delaware. Among other reasons provided to explain its capitulation into bankruptcy court is “post acute sector disruption.” Now that’s music to our ears.

💥Mary Meeker’s “State-of-the-Internet” Slide Presentation💥

Another year, another banner “State-of-the-Internet” presentation from Mary Meeker. There are some bits that we thought would be of particular interest to the restructuring community.

  • For all we hear about Amazon and e-commerce destroying retail, e-commerce growth is slowing. It constitutes 15% of retail versus 14% a year ago.

  • There is a stark shift in time spent on various forms of media and, by extension, the use of ad budgets. This chart ought to frighten the sh*t out of print and radio content producers. Time spent on print and radio is down BIG. Even more disconcerting for print? All of the other mediums appear to have reached an equilibrium between time spent and ad spend but print, however, still enjoys a disproportionate amount of ad dollars. Said another way, print media outlets may still have some pain heading their way.

We’ve made recent mention of rising customer acquisition costs and how that might derail many retailers’ business plans. To reduce CAC, many streaming services (e.g., Zoom, Spotify) use free tiers at the top of their funnel to get potential customers in the door and familiar with their products and then focus primarily on making those potential customers happy instead of otherwise deploying effort to market wholesale (PETITION Note: similarly, this is what we do). That said, CACs are indeed increasing. Ms. Meeker has a chart for this:


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⛽️Even the Permian Isn’t Infallible (Long Heaps of Oil & Gas Distress)⛽️

 

Even at 95 years old, you can’t get one past Charlie Munger. #Legend.

The Permian Basin in West Texas is where it’s at in the world of oil and gas exploration and production. Per Wikipedia:

As of 2018, the Permian Basin has produced more than 33 billion barrels of oil, along with 118 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. This production accounts for 20% of US crude oil production and 7% of US dry natural gas production. While the production was thought to have peaked in the early 1970s, new technologies for oil extraction, such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have increased production dramatically. Estimates from the Energy Information Administration have predicted that proven reserves in the Permian Basin still hold 5 billion barrels of oil and approximately 19 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

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And it may be even more prolific than originally thought. Norwegian research firm Rystad Energy recently issued a report indicating that Permian projected output was already above 4.5mm barrels a day in May with volumes exceeding 5mm barrels in June. This staggering level of production is pushing total U.S. oil production to approximately 12.5mm barrels per day in May. That means the Permian now accounts for 36% of US crude oil production — a significant increase over 2018. Normalized across 365 days, that would be a 1.64 billion barrel run rate. This is despite (a) rigs coming offline in the Permian and (b) natural gas flaring and venting reaching all-time highs in Q1 ‘19 due to a lack of pipelines. Come again? That’s right. The Permian is producing in quantities larger than pipelines can accommodate. Per Reuters:

Producers burned or vented 661 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) in the Permian Basin of West Texas and eastern New Mexico, the field that has driven the U.S. to record oil production, according to a new report from Rystad Energy.

The Permian’s first-quarter flaring and venting level more than doubles the production of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico’s most productive gas facility, Royal Dutch Shell’s Mars-Ursa complex, which produces about 260 to 270 mmcfd of gas.

The Permian isn’t alone in this, however. The Bakken shale field in North Dakota is also flaring at a high level. More from Reuters:

Together, the two oil fields on a yearly basis are burning and venting more than the gas demand in countries that include Hungary, Israel, Azerbaijan, Colombia and Romania, according to the report.

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All of which brings us to Legacy Reserves Inc. ($LGCY). Despite the midstream challenges, one could be forgiven for thinking that any operators engaged in E&P in the Permian might be insulated from commodity price declines and other macro headwinds. That position, however, would be wrong.

Legacy is a publicly-traded energy company engaged in the acquisition, development, production of oil and nat gas properties; its primary operations are in the Permian Basin (its largest operating region, historically), East Texas, and in the Rocky Mountain and Mid-Continent regions. While some of these basins may produce gobs of oil and gas, acquisition and production is nevertheless a HIGHLY capital intensive endeavor. And, here, like with many other E&P companies that have recently made their way into the bankruptcy bin, “significant capital” translates to “significant debt.”

Per the Company:

Like similar companies in this industry, the Company’s oil and natural gas operations, including their exploration, drilling, and production operations, are capital-intensive activities that require access to significant amounts of capital.  An oil price environment that has not recovered from the downturn seen in mid-2014 and the Company’s limited access to new capital have adversely affected the Company’s business. The Company further had liquidity constraints through borrowing base redeterminations under the Prepetition RBL Credit Agreement, as well as an inability to refinance or extend the maturity of the Prepetition RBL Credit Agreement beyond May 31, 2019.

This is the company’s capital structure:

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The company made two acquisitions in mid-2015 costing over $540mm. These acquisitions proved to be ill-timed given the longer-than-expected downturn in oil and gas. Per the Company:

In hindsight, despite the GP Board’s and management’s favorable view of the potential future opportunities afforded by these acquisitions and the high-caliber employees hired by the Company in connection therewith, these two acquisitions consumed disproportionately large amounts of the Company’s liquidity during a difficult industry period.

WHOOPS. It’s a good thing there were no public investors in this thing who were in it for the high yield and favorable tax treatment.*

Yet, the company was able to avoid a prior bankruptcy when various other E&P companies were falling like flies. Why was that? Insert the “drillco” structure here: the company entered into a development agreement with private equity firm TPG Special Situations Partners to drill, baby, drill (as opposed to acquire). What’s a drillco structure? Quite simply, the PE firm provided capital in return for a wellbore interest in the wells that it capitalized. Once TPG clears a specified IRR in relation to any specific well, any remaining proceeds revert to the operator. This structure — along with efforts to delever through out of court exchanges of debt — provided the company with much-needed runway during a rough macro patch.

It didn’t last, however. Liquidity continued to be a pervasive problem and it became abundantly clear that the company required a holistic solution to its balance sheet. That’s what this filing will achieve: this chapter 11 case is a financial restructuring backed by a Restructuring Support Agreement agreed to by nearly the entirety of the capital structure — down through the unsecured notes. Per the Company:

The Global RSA contemplates $256.3 million in backstopped equity commitments, $500.0 million in committed exit financing from the existing RBL Lenders, the equitization of approximately $815.8 million of prepetition debt, and payment in full of the Debtors’ general unsecured creditors.

Said another way, the Permian holds far too much promise for parties in interest to walk away from it without maintaining optionality for the future.

*Investors got burned multiple times along the way here. How did management do? Here is one view (view thread: it’s precious):

😬

President Trump Kills More Guns (Long Unintended Consequences).

Callback to four previous PETITION pieces:

The first one — which was a tongue-in-cheek mock First Day Declaration we wrote in advance of Remington Outdoor Company’s chapter 11 bankruptcy — is, if we do say so ourselves, AN ABSOLUTE MUST READ. The same basic narrative could apply to the recent chapter 11 bankruptcy filing of Sportco Holdings Inc., a marketer and distributor of products and accessories for hunting, which filed for bankruptcy on Monday, June 10, 2019. Sportco’s customer base consists of 20k independent retailers covering all 50 states. But back to the “MUST READ.” There are some choice bits there:

Murica!! F*#& Yeah!! 

Remington (f/k/a Freedom Group) is "Freedom Built, American Made." Because nothing says freedom like blowing sh*t up. Cue Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird." Hell, we may even sing it in court now that Toys R Ushas made that a thing. 

Our company traces its current travails to 2007 when Cerberus Capital Management LP bought Remington for $370mm (cash + assumption of debt) and immediately "loaded" the North Carolina-based company with even more debt. As of today, the company has $950mm of said debt on its balance sheet, including a $150mm asset-backed loan due June '19, a $550mm term loan B due April '19, and 7.875% $250mm 3rd lien notes due '20. Suffice it to say, the capital structure is pretty "jammed." Nothing says America like guns...and leverage

Indeed, this is true of Sportco too. Sportco “sports” $23mm in prepetition ABL obligations and $249.8mm in the form of a term loan. Not too shabby on the debt side, you gun nuts!


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💰The United States Trustee (Long Perverse Incentives).💰

The Wall Street Journal reports that the UST fund is approximately 75% short of its funding goal for the year.* Currently, the fund gets fed by quarterly fees paid by bankrupt companies with over $1mm in operating expenses. As with all things bankruptcy, the new federal law mandating the fee increase has a number of holes in it. Consequently, various cases implicating the law are winding their way through the courts.


THIS IS A MEMBERS-ONLY ARTICLE, TO READ THE REST, CLICK HERE. (YOU AND YOUR BOSS WON’T REGRET IT)

Credit Default Swaps (Short Windstream’s Management, Puffery & Stupid F*cking Ideas)


Here
 is a late-to-the-party rant by William D. Cohan in the New York Times about the deleterious effect of credit default swaps and how they caused Windstream Holdings to file for bankruptcy. Here’s Cohan’s prescription to cure CDS ails:

What can be done about these perverse incentives? First, the Securities and Exchange Commission should immediately require greater disclosure of credit-default swap positions held by creditors. It’s the only way for a company, its investors and its employees to have a transparent understanding of a creditor’s motivations.

Ok, sure. What form would this disclosure take? How often would it have to be made? To whom should it be made? Is there a distinction to be made between CDS to hedge a debt position or naked CDS? So many questions.

He continues:

Once those positions are disclosed, the S.E.C. should help companies protect themselves from hostile creditors. The agency could, for example, allow companies to revise the terms of their bond agreements so that creditors with credit-default swaps don’t have the same voting rights as creditors who want a company to succeed. The definition of “failure to pay” and other conditions that might set off a default could also be revised to make it harder for a hedge fund to push a company into technical default. Judges can also play an important role, by taking the creditors’ motivations into account as more of these cases inevitably wind up in the courts.

What. The. F*ck.


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🏦How are the Investment Banks Doing? Part II.🏦

You didn’t think we’d just stop at Evercore and Greenhill, did you?

Moelis & Company ($MC) recently reported “disappointing” financial results reflecting a dramatic decline in M&A activity in Q1, which affected revenues significantly. Reported revenue was $138mm, down 37%. “This compares to the overall M&A market in which the number of global M&A completions greater than $100 million declined 18% during the same period. The decline in revenues was primarily driven by fewer transaction completions.” Restructuring activity “declined slightly.” MC guided towards softness in the first half of the year with a relatively stronger second half.

Some key takeaways:

  • Brexit and a number of shaky elections in Europe are having some effect on M&A activity in Europe.

  • Expected continued chill of cross-border M&A that involves China due to “underlying weariness” of “significant Chinese ownership of American companies.”

  • The melt down in late Q4 certainly affected M&A chatter in the C-suite as people are cautious about price volatility.

Asked what happens at MC if the M&A volume remains down, Moelis unabashedly indicated that costs would have to come out of the business, i.e., travel expense and headcount. That must’ve been a bit chilling for MC employees. Sheesh.


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Ferrellgas Partners LP Lights Money on Fire

 
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Kansas-based Ferrellgas Partners LP ($FGP) is an old school business. For nearly 80 years, it has been a nationwide home and business propane provider with propane demand driven primarily by users of space and water heaters, and large engine operators (i.e., forklifts, mowers, and generators). According to the EIA, “[a]bout 5% of all U.S. households heat primarily with propane, and many of those households are in the Northeast and Midwest.” The market for the product, however, is fairly static, thereby limiting the company’s go-forward growth prospects. Accordingly, a few years back, it sought to supplement its core business and diversify its revenue streams via acquisition.

In 2015, therefore, the company acquired Bridger Logistics, a midstream services business involving the shipping and storage of oil, for approximately $837.5mm. The company paid nearly $563mm in cash (read: issued debt to pay cash) and the rest in stock: this elevated purchase price represented a 8.4x multiple on estimated next twelve months EBITDA of $100mm. The company noted the following at the time of the acquisition:

"The move positions Ferrellgas to significantly expand its midstream platform and is expected to be immediately accretive to Ferrellgas and supportive of future distribution growth.”

Only it wasn’t. Rather than being accretive, the transaction became the epitome of (i) haphazardly reaching beyond a core competency, (ii) stretched economics during a frothy seller’s market, and (iii) bad timing. Shortly after the transaction, the midstream services sectors got napalmed. And never recovered. In 2018, the Company reported that Bridger and other accumulated midstream asset gross margin decreased an astounding 75% to $12.6mm. Burdened by an over-levered capital structure, the company reversed course and rather than attempt to fit a square peg into a round hole, decided to start shedding assets to paydown debt. Indeed, the company sold the same acquired assets for a total of $92mm — which amounts to an absolutely BRUTAL level of value destruction.

Clearly that acquisition didn’t go as planned. After a brutal 18-month failure, the transaction left the most lasting impression on the company’s balance sheet:

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WANT TO SEE HOW BRUTAL AND WHY? CLICK HERE TO GET THAT SUPERIOR INSIGHT YOU’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR.