Retail (Who the hell can keep up?)

Toy's R' Us YOY down $33mm and comp stores down 4%. Neiman Marcus, meanwhile, reported that it is terminating its proposed sale process. Hudson's Bay Co., considered a buyer, is suffering itself and apparently the two parties couldn't figure out what to do with Neiman's $4.8b of debt. Now the company has to fend for itself. Speaking of bigbox, Sears Canadalooks like the first domino to fall in the Sears empire and its former CEO isn't pulling any punches vis-a-vis ESL. Ascena Retail Group ($ASNA) announced that it's closing 25% of its stores. And now the game of chicken between retailers and malls is at full force with restaurants bouncing around to the Sam Cassell big balls dance (c'mon, you know the reference). Finally, Walmart bought Bonobos and the retail race is on: WMT vs. AMZN!

Enduring Retail Narratives

Retail (At Least They're Consistent)Chico's FAS Inc. ($CHS) reported numbers and despite a profit increase, its other numbers looked a bit shaky - consistent with the rest of the apparel industry. Net sales, revenue and same store sales were all down with guidance indicating additional same store sales declines. In the face of challenging millennial spending habits, decreased tourism and President Trump, Tiffany & Co. ($TIF) reported a 3% same store sales decline which sent the stock tumbling nearly 6%. Some data on decreased tourism from FourSquare hereSears Holding Corp. ($SHLD) revenue fell 20% and same store sales fell nearly 12% - and yet the stock initially popped showing the disconnect between reality and markets these days. Serious, WTF.

Interesting Restructuring News

  • Grocery. Cerberus Capital Management-owned Albertsons is reportedly in talks regarding a possible take-private buyout of publicly-traded grocer Sprouts Farmers Market ($SFM). Given the tough grocery environment, this is an interesting development. And it may get EVEN MORE interesting given this.
  • Oil&Gas. Crude stockpiles hit a modern record this week as American producers basically flick off Saudi Arabia/OPEC and produce, baby, produce. Crude priced down to ~$48/barrel. This - and the embattled state of Seadrill Ltd. - isn't stopping John Fredriksen from looking at picking off offshore assets. Speaking of offshore assets, the oil players are going face-to-face with power suppliers - for wind. Meanwhile, a dissenting view relating to the effect of the rise of electric cars on oil demand (paywall). Elsewhere, in Canada...
  • Retail. Bebe Stores Inc. ($BEBE) is plans to shut down its brick-and-mortar locations and become an exclusively e-comm brand - a plan that depends on the sudden charity of landlords who have shown ZERO propensity for flexibility with retail tenants. Seriously, like, ZERO. See, e.g., THE TRAIL OF RETAIL CORPSES LINING THE 2017 BANKRUPTCY ROLLS. Meanwhile, Land's End ($LE) continued to suffer from its association with Sears while reporting a perfect storm of, wait for it...decreased net revenue, decreased catalogue and e-commerce revenue, decreased same-store sales, and worsening gross margin. J.Crew  reported sliding sales, revenue and same-store comps but nevertheless reported a (very) small profit - largely on the back of Madewell. And then there is Nike ($NKE) which, in its quarterly report, noted increased profit but modest sales growth in the face of online shipping headwinds.
  • Retail II. Uh oh. It appears that Walmart may be getting it's (e-commerce) sh*t together which doesn't bode well for brick-and-mortar already suffering from the Amazon onslaught. Speaking of which, peace out Payless Inc. Wethinks we'll soon be saying "peace out" to a bunch of Chinese shoe manufacturers on top of the thousands of American jobs that will be wiped out. But dividends for Golden Gate Capital and Blum Capital Partners!

  • Rewind I: We have taken a little bit of heat for two mentions of 3D-printing in this newsletter; we have been accused of over-hyping the technology and its near-term ramifications. Well, noting the Adidas announcement this week, have we?? 
  • Chart of the Week

News for the Week of 2/19/17

  • Capital Markets. The return of the Holdco PIK Toggle bond - a precursor to the inevitable market collapse. Or so they say.
  • Coal. Plants are closing. Looks like some votes from coal country were misplaced.
  • Dead MallsInvesting. See, e.g., this piece on Macerich. We don't typically cite to Seeking Alpha's collection of vagabonds and yahoos, but we found this particular analysis of A Malls interesting.
  • Exploration & Production17 months after filing its prepackaged bankruptcy case(s)...or was it prearranged?*t, it's been so long that we can't even remember, Samson Resources Corporation finally has a confirmed plan of reorganization. We'd be curious to see what the professional fees are as a percentage of debt ($5.6b): perhaps this should be a new in-court ratio for courts to consider as part of 327(a) review. At least we got a new term of art out of it: "the Kirkland Prepack". So, there's that (2x if you consider EFH this week, too). 
  • Nuclear powerToshiba took a beating on Westinghouse this week. And now there are whispers of bankruptcy.
  • Retail. We have a Billions-style therapist in-house who keeps using bad sex metaphors to inspire us to be more positive about retail. Ok, no we don't: last we checked none of you are paying for this newsletter and so how the hell would we afford THAT?! Still, there are some positive signs for retail: Barron's, for instance, thinks Macy's stock has fallen too far and has upside. Meanwhile, specialty women's retailer J.Jill has filed its S-1 under the JOBS Act for an IPO which either means there's one retailer bucking recent trends or - more likely - TowerBrook Capital Partners LP is looking to dump this thing before Amazon gobbles it up like it has everything else. Damn...that was cynical and negative wasn't it?  Well, we tried. 
  • Retail II. This week we learned that Warren Buffett dumped his entire position of Walmart stock ($900mm) which, as this piece notes, ain't exactly a vote of confidence in retail. Perhaps Buffett would have reconsidered had he known about "Moosejaw Madness." You read that right: this week Walmart spent $51mm to purchase Moosejaw, a Michigan-based online retailer (with about a dozen B-and-M locations). Interestingly, the business is similar to Gander Mountain which, as we covered last week, is staring down the barrel of a liquidation. Oh, and hhgregg isn't exactly instilling confidence either (yes, its publicly traded). But, in an ironic twist, Amazon is upping to 8 B-and-M book stores.
  • Retail III. This won't help mall foot traffic: frustrated by a lack of options, start-ups like Dia&Co. are looking to tackle the plus-size market (with wholly-unoriginal Birchbox-style monthly mailings). And a fresh round of funding from well-known VC Sequoia Capital will aid the effort. Speaking of Birchbox, note that the business - despite being copied by a slew of other start-ups - isn't exactly a shining tower of success; it recently took on venture debt (and rif'd staff) and now it's exploring pricier options to juice revenues.
  • Shipping. A bloodbath in China for the shipbuilders and Hanjin Shipping = toast.
  • Uber. With $500 million of delinquent taxi medallion loans, NY state regulators seized the Melrose Credit Union. #disruption 
  • WindNo holding it back

News for the Week of 2/12/17

  • Coal. Prices have risen and Trump is promising assistance. Is this enough to offset sagging demand? China's new measures aren't helping. But the capital markets are, as Peabody EnergyArch Coal, and Contura Energy are all taking advantage of cheap financing/refinancing options. Peabody shopped an upsized term loan (by $450mm) with revised company-favorable pricing; it also issued new notes and bonds. Amazing how quickly things changed with coal.
  • Chicago. S&P is making threats. 
  • Electric Vehicles. Something tells us that oil and gas management teams and their wildly astute restructuring bankers and advisors neglected to bake this element into their business plans. 
  • European DebtIncreasing concerns about Italy and Greece. Meanwhile, in France, CVC Capital Partners' owned vehicle leasing firm Fraikin has hired Rothschild to restructure its 1.4 billion Euro debt. Lazard will represent the mezz debt.
  • Moelis & Co. & Aramco"Ken of Arabia"? C'mon, that's just dumb.
  • Power. California has more power plants than it needs. After a slate of power-related bankruptcies, it looks like there is more hurt to come in this space. And big developments on the storage side probably won't help. And this new cooling tech won't help either - if it's legit.
  • Retail. And people wonder why private equity is and point: Rackspace. Speaking of private equity, Canada Goose's proposed IPO reeks of a dump-and-run on greater fools. Millennials don't spend money, but Bain Capital will have us believe that $900 fur-lined jackets are the exception to the rule. Riiiight. 
  • Retail Part IIOrganized Retail Crime = massive problem. 
  • Retail Part IIIGander Mountain = toast.
  • Retail Part IVAmazon announced that the number of third-party sellers on its B2B site has reached 45k, up about 50% from the approx 30k sellers it had at the end of Q2...IN JUNE.
  • Return of the Maturity Wall. Nothing gets restructuring professionals' juices flowing like sexy maturity stats. So, here it is: $2 trillion of corporate debt comes due in five years. And this is, in part, because the capital markets are definitely wide open right now in the face of soon-to-be rising interest rates. Take THAT wall, President Trump! 
  • Sears. Everyone is looking at this oncoming trainwreck and wondering "when?", not "if." Nice recent CDS movements on it but then the company unearthed a remarkable $1b in cost savings. Like, out of nowhere. And, naturally, the stock soared 25+%.
  • Spotify. Typically there are tremors before the earthquake. Perhaps Filip TechnologiesViolin Memory, and Nasty Gal are the tremors foreshadowing a venture debt-backed reckoning on the horizon. It's unclear. But, in Spotify's case, the interest ratchets attached to $1b of debt get more and more expensive with each consecutive quarter sans IPO. A big "unicorn" is going to fail and fail big. Spotify may not be the one, but it ain't looking great. But that one IS coming (Zenefits anyone?). Along these lines, how the eff is Theranos not bankrupt yet
  • Takata. Inching towards bankruptcy.
  • Fast Forward: Most retail-focused restructuring pros emphasize "omni-channel," the latest retail buzzword that, practically speaking, means basically nothing in today's climate. Case and point: Neiman Marcus, which was downgraded this week with projected 10x leverage on $4.77b of debt. Most of the cap stack traded at new lows this week. Omni-channel ain't a panacea, it appears.
  • Rewind IThis result for Relativity Media sure sounds positive.
  • Rewind II: The grocery space is getting hammered so badly that now even Whole Foods is retrenching, shutting more stores than it's opening go-forward.
  • Chart of the Week
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News for the Week of 01/15/17

  • Canada. Predicting lots of doom and gloom.
  • CovenantsSome developments in the capital markets thanks to recent activity with makewhole provisions - including "the end of covenants?". 
  • Fees. It was only a matter of time before there was a new chapter in the always inevitable vilification of restructuring professionals due to fees. Instead of a front page story about Lehman or TXU in the WSJ, here the Houston Chronicle highlights oil and gas cases.
  • Fund Performance. Bloomberg does IR work for Brigade Capital Management, highlighting the asset management company's purported big '16. And for Mudrick Capitalnoting the fund's turnaround after a period of high profile poor performance.
  • Let's Get Technical. For you geeks who love worrying about CDS, high yield bonds and liquidity, this report is for you.
  • Municipal Trouble: we've talked about Dallas in the past and now Providenceis in the crosshairs.
  • North Dakota: In a shocking development, the state's forecasts did not account for the upheaval in the energy space: just a mere billion short.
  • Radio. Pros focused on radio-based media situations ought to take note of what is happening in Norway, which is now the first country to completely switch off its FM radio network and convert entirely to digital. Meanwhile, in the streaming music space, Soundcloud bankruptcy rumors continue to increase (we called it).
  • Sears. We're tempted to run a pool to gauge when this sucker FINALLY files for bankruptcy but like the villain in Die Hard, Lampert will probably find a way to keep the thing coming back.
  • Rewind IGarden Fresh Restaurant has sold to Cerberus Capital Management in bankruptcy. Sun Capital's pain is Cerberus' gain. Speaking of Sun Capital, it seems they made out okay with their Limited investment thanks to distributions and dividends. To summarize, they made 1.8x their initial $50mm investment. And 4000 people are losing jobs.
  • Rewind IIGilden Activewear Inc. will acquire American Apparel for $88mm, a premium to the original stalking horse bid. Meanwhile, Nasty Gal received approval to sell its brand and customer information for $20mm. Wet Seal, meanwhile, looks headed towards a Chapter 22 at best and a liquidation at worst - not long after Versa Capital bought it out of bankruptcy for $7.5mm.
  • Rewind IIIJawbone continues to struggle as the wearables space continues to consolidate.
  • Chart of the Week
  • Tweet of the Week

News for the Week of 01/08/17


  • Distressed Investing Hindsight. Avaya. Phone systems? Who would've guessed this could go wrong? Psssst: don't tell anyone but apparently Avaya and Goodman Networks are apparently in 30-day grace periods.
  • Fintech. Cracks in P2P lending by way of bankruptcy (Argon Credit).
  • Fraud. Theranos announced that it's letting go 41% of its work force - which we believe is a precursor to bankruptcy. Why file? To sell IP. If they actually even have any. And address litigation. Meanwhile, Snapchat, on the heals of a possible IPO, is being sued for misleading investors. Toss in ethical issues around Hampton Creek and others and we may start seeing some fraud-related bankruptcies a la 2001.
  • Grocery. Is Kroger's buyout announcement another leading indicator of future distress?
  • Media. Ev Williams, founder of Twitter and Medium, acknowledges that the ad-supported media model is broken while significantly cutting headcount. It seems that $150mm VC funding can't help produce a new business model. 
  • Retail. It looks like the Trump Job Preservation Tour forgot to schedule stops at KMart, Sears and Macy's (meanwhile Sears unloaded Craftsman and JC Penney shed its HQ). Next up: Kohl's? Ugly 20% drop after a nasty comp store sales drop and forecast cut. Apparently, omnichannel customers are the key to the riddle. Meanwhile, Amazon is sniffing around American Apparel (as is Forever 21, reportedly) and Boohoo is focused on Nasty Gal. Gap - mostly due to a 12% comp sales increase at Old Navy - showed positive signs while Neiman Marcus cancelled its IPO, a clear negative.
  • Taxi Companies. Uber is the death of traditional taxi companies and new tech companies that support the taxi companies (Karhoo). Which means those companies must really suck since Uber burned $3b in '16.
  • Wearables. Pebble. "Acquired." Vinaya. Bankrupt. Does someone want to raise us a Jawbone?
  • Fast Forward: With Amazon and Apple in the mix, music streaming services are struggling to make money and Soundcloud may be the closest victim. Restructuring professionals will remember that Rdio already went through bankruptcy and sold to Pandora.
  • Fast Forward II: Remember Exco?
  • Rewind IPlatinum Partners. It's amazing how funds get away with this nonsense: 17% returns for 13 years.
  • Rewind IIAthleisure. Financials-related Uh oh (Finish Line). And bankruptcy-related uh oh (Yogasmoga). But like most things, Amazon gives zero $&%s.
  • Rewind IIICoal. Maybe Trump will help the "clean coal" industry after all. And yet solar continues to progress, as does wind (in the UK and elsewhere). Ps, $361 billion is an awfully large number. And now things are progressing on the storage side thanks to Elon Musk.
  • Chart of the Week

News for the Week of 11/20/16

  • Alberta, Canada. Steps needed to weather the oil downturn. In the US, some claim that oil-related job loss is bottoming.
  • Coal. Restructuring professionals have made millions in Arch Coal, Alpha Natural Resources, and Peabody Energy. But there's real pain out there in coal country - pain that Trump has promised to assuage by bringing back jobs. With that in mind, "Blood on the Mountain" looks like required viewing. This preview is compelling: we urge you to watch it. Even if others are more realistic about those job prospects.
  • Sears. The retailer's issues accelerate as suppliers get increasingly nervous and some predict this will be its last Christmas. Retail, generally, looks set to bludgeon private equity.
  • Fast Forward: Nuverra discloses restructuring talks, UCI International DS approved and marching towards confirmation, Stone Energy launches solicitation and filing in early December, JCrew hires Lazard, Homer City forbearance extended to 11/21, Paragon Offshore back to drawing board with cram-up attempt thwarted, Energy XXI announces PSA.  
  • Rewind I: An in-depth discussion of the Nasty Gal collapse.
  • Rewind II: Steinway Musical Instruments. Is apparently not a restructuring target yet. The company received an equity cure from Paulson & Co., pushing any potential restructuring activity deeper into 2017. 4th Quarter sales will be critical to avoid covenant pressure in '17.
  • Chart of the Week

News for the Week of 10/2/16


  • Apparently the 400-pound trolls of the interwebs are responsible for a 4.1% comparable sales drop at Ares and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board held Neiman Marcus.  Well, AND pain in Texas.  AND tourist spending being down because of the strength of the dollar. Related, Fitch takes a bearish view on a number of retailers while others look at Nine West and Weight Watchers and ask, "Remember Cov-Lite?".  
  • Meanwhile, is it possible for Sears to kill malls when they're already dead?
  • Consumer bankruptcies in Alberta Canada are soaring as unemployment hits a 22-year high of 8.6%.  
  • Takata faces the rare mass-litigation-based bankruptcy filing.
  • Chart of the Week: