💥Sungard Napalms the United States Trustee💥

New Chapter 11 Filing - Sungard Availability Services Capital Inc Part I

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Pennsylvania-based Sungard Availability Services Capital Inc. — a provider of “critical production and recovery services to global enterprise companies,” with $977mm of net revenue and $203mm of EBITDA in fiscal 2018 — filed a prepackaged chapter 11 plan in the Southern District of New York on Wednesday. And, if you blinked, you may have missed its residency in bankruptcy. Indeed, some lost their minds because Kirkland & Ellis LLP was able to shepherd the case in and out of bankruptcy in less than 24 hours — breaking the previous record only recently set in FullBeauty. Yes, people care about these things.*

The upshot of this expeditious bankruptcy case is that (a) the company shed nearly $900mm of debt from its balance sheet (reducing debt down to approximately $400-450mm) and (b) transferred 89% ownership to a variety of debt-for-equity swapping funds such as GSO Capital PartnersFS InvestmentsAngelo Gordon & Co., and Carlyle Group (who will also receive $300mm in senior secured term loan paper). Major equity holders — Bain Capital Integral Investors LLCBlackstone Capital Partners IV LPBlackstone GT Communications Partners LPKKR Millennium Fund LPProvidence Equity Partners V LPSilver Lake Partners II LPTPG Partners IV LP — had their equity wiped out (we had previously highlighted KKR’s investment here in “A Hot-Potato Plan of Reorganization. Short BDC Retail Exposure,” discussing the broader context of BDC lending).

This is what the capital structure looked like and will look like:

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That balance sheet is the driver behind the bankruptcy filing. Per the company:

This legacy capital structure was created based upon the Company’s historical operating model and performance and is unsustainable under current market conditions. When the capital structure was put in place, the Company benefited from a larger revenue base with substantially higher free cash flow. As business conditions evolved and the Company’s revenue declined, cash flow available to service debt and invest in products and services substantially declined. Consolidated net revenue declined by approximately 18% from approximately $1.2 billion in 2016 to approximately $977 million in 20188 while adjusted EBITDA margins remained within a range of approximately 20% to 22%. Negative net cash flow from 2016 to 2018 was approximately $80 million.

In other words, this is as clear-cut a balance sheet restructuring that you can get. Indeed, general unsecured claims are — as you might expect from a prepackaged plan of reorganization — riding through unimpaired. This consensual restructuring is clearly the right result. Getting it in and out of court so quickly is a bonus.


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Disruption Dominos 2.0: The McClatchy Company (Long CDS Shenanigans)

In “Credit Default Swaps (Long Yield, Baby, Yield),” we discussed credit default swaps and the ongoing battle between hedge funds in the Hovnanian matter.* The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has finally weighed in. There were no minced words:

"The CDS market functions based on the premise that firms referenced in CDS contracts seek to avoid defaults, and as a result, the instruments are priced based on the financial health of the reference entity.  However, recent arrangements appear to involve intentional, or ‘manufactured,’ credit events that could call that premise into question. In a public statement dated April 11, 2018, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association’s (ISDA) board of directors criticized manufactured credit events, writing that they ‘could negatively impact the efficiency, reliability, and fairness of the overall CDS market,’ and ISDA’s board indicated that it advised its staff ‘to consult with market participants and advise the Board on whether...amendments to the ISDA Credit Derivatives Definitions should be considered’ to address manufactured credit events.     
 
"Manufactured credit events may constitute market manipulation and may severely damage the integrity of the CDS markets, including markets for CDS index products, and the financial industry’s use of CDS valuations to assess the health of CDS reference entities.  This would affect entities that the  CFTC is responsible for overseeing, including dealers, traders, trading platforms, clearing houses, and market participants who rely on CDS to hedge risk. Market participants and their advisors are advised that in instances of manufactured credit events, the Divisions will carefully consider all available actions to help ensure market integrity and combat manipulation or fraud involving CDS, in coordination with our regulatory counterparts, when appropriate.”

Better late than never we guess. You’d think they would have awakened to these issues after Codere, Radio Shack, and others. But, hey. Regulators. Enough said.

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Enough said, indeed. Query whether the The Commodity Futures Trading Commission will have more to say given the aforementioned “cherry on top” in the McClatchy transaction.

What is the cherry? Well this — per Bloomberg:

It seemed like a sure-fire bet: short the debt of a highly leveraged newspaper company that’s losing money. And for a while, it worked as investors piled up almost $500 million of wagers by buying credit-default swaps on the publisher, McClatchy Co.

That is until hedge fund Chatham Asset Management stacked the deck with a deal that’s threatening to make those swaps all but worthless.

The McClatchy situation is the latest trade that’s drawing jeers from critics who say the $11 trillion CDS market has devolved into a haven for manipulation.

Whoops.

At issue is the “newly established LLC” bit we noted above. As Bloomberg further explains,

Because the new debt would be shifted away from the parent and into the new unit, it’s fueling speculation that the Chatham deal will create what’s commonly known in the CDS world as an orphaned contract. In other words, anyone who bought insurance on a McClatchy default would effectively be paying insurance on an entity with no significant debt.

Which, naturally, begs the question: who is on the other side of the contract? Well, Chatham, of course. Because CDS! There’s no measure of how America has become great again like one fund ripping off other funds. Take a look at this chart:

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More from Bloomberg,

Leading up to the deal, Chatham had been selling swaps insuring against a default by McClatchy. So if the transaction were to be completed, it would be getting paid CDS premiums to guarantee against a default that could never technically happen.

“The whole market is losing credibility when you have events like this where you try to trigger the CDS or create orphaning situations,” XAIA’s Felsenheimer said.

Joshua Friedman from Canyon Partners appears to agree that these trades “go beyond the bounds” (video). And, so, people are losing their minds (query whether these same people led to the upsized WeWork debt financing). As always, Matt Levine puts this whole event in perspective,

The thing is, if you bet against McClatchy’s credit by buying CDS on it, you were betting not only that it would have problems with cash flow or whatever, but also that no white knight would come along to keep it afloat until after your CDS expired. A realistic credit analysis asks not only about the company’s own paying capacity but also about its external sources of financing. If you buy five-year CDS on a company, you are betting that it will default on its debt within five years. If the next day a deep-pocketed shareholder (Chatham owns 19.8 percent of McClatchy) refinances all of the company’s debt into a seven-year zero-coupon bond—or a seven-year PIK-toggle bond, or whatever, some form of debt that it cannot default on during the life of the CDS—then you have lost your bet. But you weren’t cheated out of your bet or anything. You just bet that the credit would implode, and then it didn’t. 

He’s right. And in the absence of regulators paying more attention to CDS work-arounds, this will be just one more needle in a stack of perceived-manipulated-needles.

*Yesterday, Hovnanian upheld its end of the bargain with GSO by skipping its interest payment.

What to Make of the Credit Cycle (Part 4)

We’ve spent a considerable amount of space discussing what to make of the credit cycle. Our intent is to give professionals a well-rounded view of what to expect now that we’re in year 8/9 of a bull market. You can read Parts one (Members’ only), two, and three (Members’ only), respectively.

Interestingly, certain investors have become impatient and apparently thrown in the towel. Is late 2019 or early 2020 too far afield to continue pretending to deploy a distressed investing strategy? Or are LPs anxious and pulling funds from underperforming or underinvested hedge funds? Is the opportunity set too small - crap retail and specialized oil and gas - for players to be active? Are asset values too high? Are high yield bonds priced too high? All valid questions (feel free to write in and let us know what we’re missing: petition@petition11.com).

In any event, The Wall Street Journal highlights:

A number of distressed-debt hedge funds are abandoning traditional loan-to-own strategies after years of low interest rates resulted in meager returns for investors. Some are even investing in equities.

PETITION Note: funny, last we checked an index fund doesn’t charge 2 and 20.

The WSJ continues,

BlueMountain Capital Management LLC and Arrowgrass Capital Partners LLP are some of the bigger funds that have shifted away from this niche-investing strategy. And lots of smaller funds have closed shop.

A number of smaller distressed-debt investors have closed down, including Panning Capital Management, Reef Road Capital and Hutchin Hill Capital.

PETITION Note: the WSJ failed to include TCW Group’s distressed asset fund. What? Too soon?

We should note, however, that there are several other platforms that are raising (or have raised) money for new distressed and/or special situations, e.g., GSO and Knighthead Capital Management.

Still is the WSJ-reported capitulation a leading indicator of increased distressed activity to come? Owl Creek Asset Management LP seems to think so. The WSJ writes,

Owl Creek founder Jeffrey Altman, however, believes that if funds are shutting down and moving away from classic loan-to-own strategies then a big wave of restructuring is around the corner. “If anything, value players leaving credit makes me feel more confident that the extended run-up credit markets have been enjoying may finally be ending,” Mr. Altman said.

One’s loss is another’s opportunity.

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Speaking of leading indicators(?) and opportunity, clearly there are some entrepreneurial (or masochistic?) investors who are prepping for increased distressed activity. In December, The Carlyle Group ($CG), via its Carlyle Strategic Partners IV L.P. fund, announced a strategic investment in Prime Clerk LLC, a claims and noticing administrator based in New York (more on Prime Clerk below). Terms were not disclosed — though sources tell us that the terms were rich. Paul Weiss Rifkind & Wharton LLP served as legal counsel and Centerview Partners as the investment banker on the transaction.

On April 19th, Omni Management Group announced that existing management had teamed up with Marc Beillinson and affiliates of the Beilinson Advisory Group (Mark Murphy and Rick Kapko) to purchase Omni Management Group from Rust Consulting. Terms were not disclosed here either. We can’t imagine the terms here were as robust as those above given the market share differential.

The point is: some opportunistic folk sure seem to think that there’s another cycle coming. And they’re putting their money where their mouth is, thinking that there will be money to be made in the (seemingly saturated) case administration business. Time will tell.

What to Make of the Credit Cycle (Part 1)

Moody's, Fitch & Guggenheim Partners Chime In

Earlier this week, Moody’s Default and Ratings Analytics team forecasted that the US’ trailing 12-month high-yield default rate will sink to 2% — from its February 2018 3.6% level — by February 2019. That is not a good sign for restructuring professionals itching for an uptick in activity.

FitchRatings chimed in as well, noting that underwriting standards underscore that the leveraged debt market is in the later stages of the credit cycle. But, it added,

“Aggressive documentation terms now prevalent could challenge recoveries in the next downturn. However, a surge in refinancing activity since 2016 should increase time between the credit cycle's bottom and peak in default rates. Looser documentation, such as the prevalence of covenant-lite (cov-lite) loans, should also lower the risk of technical default while enabling issuers to access additional funding via secured debt and unrestricted subsidiary provisions.” (emphasis ours)

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