DO. NOT. MESS. WITH. DAISY. CHAPTER 3 (Short Pet Retailers 2.0) 🔫🔫🔫

Petco: Outlook Negative

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On Wednesday, we concluded the “DO. NOT. MESS. WITH. DAISY. CHAPTER 2 (Short Pet Retailers 2.0) 🔫🔫” about Petsmart Inc., with the following statement:

“With 1600 stores, the company isn’t light with its footprint and same store sales and pricing power are on the decline. Still, the company’s liquidity profile remains relatively intact and its services businesses apparently still drive foot traffic. Which is not to say that the situation doesn’t continue to bear watching — particularly if Chewy.com’s customer-acquisition-costs continue to skyrocket, overall brick-and-mortar trends continue to move downward, and the likes of Target ($T), Walmart ($WMT) and Amazon ($AMZN) continue to siphon off market share. A failure to stem the decline could add more stress to the situation.”

Well, guess what: industry trends are continuing to decline. Last week Petco Holdings announced dogsh*t earnings (oh man, we’ve been waiting all week for that…SO GOOD) and, suffice it to say, its (and Petsmart’s) bonds made fresh lows on the news.

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DO. NOT. MESS. WITH. DAISY. CHAPTER 2 of 3 (Short Pet Retailers) 🔫🔫

🐶 Petsmart Inc.: "Outlook Negative" 🐶 

On this day exactly one year ago, Recode first reported that Petsmart acquired Chewy.com for $3.35 billion — the “largest e-commerce acquisition ever.” Venture capitalists — and the founders — of course, rejoiced. This was an a$$-kicking exit — particularly for a company that, at the time, was only six years old. The reported amount of venture funding topped out at $451 million, a massive sum, but sufficiently low enough for the VCs to make a substantial return. Recode wrote,

“The deal is a huge one by any standard — bigger than Walmart’s $3.3 billion deal for Jet.com last year — and especially for a retail company like PetSmart, which was itself valued at only $8.7 billion when private equity investors took it over in 2015.

But Chewy.com has been one of the fastest-growing e-commerce sites on the planet, registering nearly $900 million in revenue last year, in what was only its fifth year in operation. The company had been a potential IPO candidate for this year or next, but was taken out by its brick-and-mortar competitor before that. It was not profitable last year.”

Recode continued,

“The deal seems like the type of bet-the-company acquisition by a traditional retailer that commerce-focused venture capitalists have been betting on for some time. While Walmart’s acquisition of Jet.com was a huge deal by e-commerce standards, it represented just a fraction of Walmart’s market value.”

Toss of the dice notwithstanding, most talking heads seemed to think that the acquisition made “strategic sense.” Nevertheless, Recode’s sentiment was more prescient than they likely suspected — mostly due to the havoc it has wreaked to Petsmart’s cap stack.

The company financed the purchase with a two-part debt offering of (a) $1.35 billion of ‘25 8.875% senior secured notes and (b) $650 million of ‘25 5.875% unsecured notes. Rounding out the capital structure is a $750 million ABL, a $4.3 billion cov-lite first-lien term loan and $1.9 billion cov-lite ‘23 senior unsecured notes. Let us help you out here: 1+2+3+4 = $8.2 billion in debt. The equity sponsors, BC PartnersGICLongview Asset ManagementCaisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and StepStone Group, helped by writing a $1.35 billion new equity check. So, what did all of this financing lead to?

One year later, CEO Michael Massey is gone and hasn’t been replaced. More recently, Ryan Cohen, the CEO and co-founder of Chewy.com has departed. Blue Buffalo Pet Products Inc., which reportedly accounted for 11-12% of PetSmart’s sales, opted to supply its food products to mass-market retailers like Target ($T) and Kroger ($KR). The notes backing the Chewy.com deal are trading (and have basically, since issuance, traded) at distressed levels. Petsmart’s EBITDA showed a 34% YOY decline in Q3. And, worse even (for investors anyway), the bondholders are increasingly concerned about asset stripping to the benefit of the company’s private equity sponsors. S&P Global Ratings downgraded the company in December. It stated,

“The downgrade reflects our view that the capital structure is unsustainable at current levels of EBITDA, although we do not see a default scenario over the next year given liquidity and cash generation. Such underperformance came from the company's rapid e-commerce growth that generated higher losses, and unanticipated negative same-store sales at its physical stores. As Chewy aggressively expands its customer base, we believe operating losses will widen because the company has not yet garnered the size and scale to offset the unprofitable business volume from new customers.”

Financial performance and ratios were a big consideration: margin is compressed, in turn negatively affecting the company’s interest coverage ratio and leverage ratio (approximately 8.5x).

Moody’s Investor Service also issued a downgrade in January. It wrote,

“We still believe the acquisition of Chewy has the potential of being transformative for PetSmart as it will exponentially increase its online penetration which was previously very modest. However, as Chewy continues to grow its topline aggressively and incur increasing customer acquisition costs we expect its operating losses to increase. More importantly, the increasingly competitive business environment particularly from e-commerce and mass retailers has led to increased promotional activity which has negatively impacted PetSmart's top line and margins. We expect this trend to continue in 2018.”

Bloomberg adds,

“Buying Chewy.com was supposed to be a coup for PetSmart Inc. For debt investors who funded the deal, it’s been more like a dog.”

See what they did there?

With 1600 stores, the company isn’t light with its footprint and same store sales and pricing power are on the decline. Still, the company’s liquidity profile remains relatively intact and its services businesses apparently still drive foot traffic. Which is not to say that the situation doesn’t continue to bear watching — particularly if Chewy.com’s customer-acquisition-costs continue to skyrocket, overall brick-and-mortar trends continue to move downward, and the likes of Target ($T), Walmart ($WMT) and Amazon ($AMZN) continue to siphon off market share. A failure to stem the decline could add more stress to the situation.

*****

💥We’ll discuss Petco Holdings in “DO. NOT. MESS. WITH. DAISY. CHAPTER 3 of 3 (Short Pet Retailers 2.0) 🔫🔫🔫” in our Members’-only briefing on Sunday.💥

Will TOM SHOES Be Another Victim of Private Equity?

Is Blake Mycoskie's Company in Distress?

NPR’s “How I Built This” podcast featuring TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie is great. But it footnotes a big piece of the TOMS story and neglects another entirely: that Mycoskie sold 50% of the company to private equity firm, Bain Capital. And that the company has debt currently trading at distressed levels and faces a potential liquidity crisis.

Let’s take a step back. TOMS Shoes Inc. is an unequivocal success story and Blake Mycoskie is deserving of praise. He took an idea that was originally meant to be purely charitable and created a company that scaled from $300k of revenue in year one to $450mm in revenue in year seven. His "buy-one-give-one" model has resulted in millions without shoes now having shoes. And the model itself has been copied by Warby ParkerBombas, and others, across various businesses. 

That said, for us, this tweet sparked a renewed interest in the company. Many have speculated for years that the TOMS story isn’t all rainbows and unicorns and that there are unintended consequences that emanate out of the one-for-one model. The report referenced in the tweet drives this point home. 

Why is this important now? Because the charity narrative is critical to TOMS. The company cannot afford for the public to sour on the message. Particularly since the company hasn’t been doing so hot lately. Revenue fell nearly 24% YOY in Q2 and EBITDA fell 72% YOY to $5mm. Cash is thinning and the leverage ratio is fattening. S&P downgraded the company back in August. The company's $306.5mm senior secured Term Loan is trading at distressed levels down in the mid 40s, a marked decline from the mid 70s in the beginning of ’17. And that is up from a week or so ago, when it was in the low 40s: this partnership with Apple ($AAPL) and Target ($TGT) helped pump the quote. For those who don't deal in the world of restructuring or distressed investing, a plunge of loan value by nearly 100% is, well, quite obviously a terrible sign. This means, plainly, that the market is pricing in the very real possibility that TOMS will default (and won't be able to pay back its loan in full). 

A positive? There are no near term maturities: the $80mm revolver is due in 2019 and the term loan is due in October 2020. Still, at Libor+550bps, the interest rate on the term loan is a minimum of 6.5% which is a cool $21mm in annual interest expense. And that’s before interest rates rise. The company looks like it will have trouble sustaining its capital structure and there’s no indication that the addition of new SKUs will help the company grow into it. With that interest expense, liquidity is going to get tighter. Those of you paying attention have heard this leveraged-buyout-gone-awry-lots-of-interest-expense story before: it’s the same one as Toys “R” Usrue21Payless Shoesource, & Gymboree

According to S&P, the wholesale business is feeling the trickle down effect of pervasively battered retail with inventory orders on the decline. In a thus far successful effort to maintain margin, TOMS is focusing on operational streamlining. We are guessing that some kind of financial advisor is in there (anyone know?). At a certain point, there are only so many costs you can take out of a business. Does anyone think the wholesale business is set to reverse course anytime soon given the state of retail? We don't. 

Which brings us back to NPR’s podcast. Celebrating how something is built is great and, again, we are big fans. The series has featured a variety of awesome episodes (email us for recs). But it bothered us that we weren't given the whole story. It's not sexy, we get that, but the company's debt load, interest expense, and private equity history should have been the last chapter. What comes next is to be determined. 

Geoffrey is on the Ropes: Toys R' Us is in Trouble

Private Equity Backed Retail is in the Dumps

"No Reason to Exist" - Restructuring Banker

Big news this week was CNBC's report that Toys R' Us hired Kirkland & Ellis LLP to complement Lazard ($LAZ) in a potential restructuring transaction.This was followed by an S&P downgrade (firewall). This is "Death by self-commoditization," someone said. Sure, that's part of it but the more obvious and immediate explanation is the $5+ billion of debt the company is carrying on its balance sheet (and the millions of dollars of annual interest payments). Which, naturally, quickly gets us to private equity: KKR ($KKR), Bain and Vornado Realty Trust ($VNO) own Toys R' Us and so some are quick to blame those PRIVATE EQUITY shops for YET ANOTHER retailer hitting the skids. Post-LBO, this company simply never could grow into its capital structure given (i) the power of the big box retailers (e.g., Walmart ($WMT) & Target ($TGT)) and (ii) headwinds confronting specialty brick-and-mortar retail today (yeah, yeah, blah, blah, Amazon). That said, the gravity of the near-term maturity, the company's current cash position, and the bond trading levels don't necessarily scream imminent bankruptcy. There must be more to this. Speculating here, but this could just be an international value grab. Alternatively, given the tremendous amount of blood in the (retail) waters, we're betting that suppliers are squeezing the company. Badly. Like very badly. And/or maybe the company is trying to scare its landlords into concessions. We mean, seriously, we're in September. And the company is talking about bankruptcy NOW? Mere months from peak (holiday) toy shopping? Strikes us as odd. Someone has an agenda here. 

On a positive note, we want to give the company some credit: it tried its best to control the narrative by releasing its list of must-have toys for the holidays on the same day the Kirkland news "leaked."

*For anyone taking notes, this is a genius stroke of business development by Lazard: pinpoint a potential distressed corporate candidate and then poach that company's Vice President of Corporate Finance. Power. Move. We dig it. 

How Many Companies Will Amazon Bankrupt?

Grocery (Short EVERYTHING). So much to unpack in grocery world this past week so here is a brief summary for you: WholeFoods ($WFN) CEO John Mackey called Jana Partners greedy bastardsfood deflation trends continued albeit at a markedly slower rate which means that someone wickedly smart may just be timing grocery at a time when it starts benefiting from inflation (imagine that); a Nomura Instinet analyst said - on Thursday - that Amazon ($AMZN) will next disrupt the grocery space (weeks after Scott Galloway predicted something big in grocery); Wegman's announced same day delivery via partnership with InstacartKroger ($KR) announced its numbers won't meet guidance and the stock, already down 14% on the year, dipped another 20% (only to fall more a day later on this...); Amazon dropped an atomic bomb on everyone and initiated a $13.7b play for Wholefoods making those greedy bastards pretty damn happy bastards (and sending stocks of everyone else - including Kroger - into even more of a tailspin); people then got busy questioning the viability of Instacart (the goodwill from the Wegman's news instantly evaporated) and BlueApron and Hello Fresh and Costco ($COST) and, well, we could go on and on but suffice it to say that if the food-oriented company was private it will likely stay private longer and if its public then its stock got decimated (including big boxes like Target ($TGT) and Walmart ($WMT)). And we were really beginning to warm to the "How to Beat Amazon" think pieces that have been making the rounds. The real question is: how many bankruptcies in 2018 will mention Amazon as one of the reasons why...?