Notable (Sears Canada, Joyus, Community Health Systems & More)

Busted Tech. Joyus, an online shopping platform that relied heavily on video, shuttered this past week announcing in a leaked memo that it would undertake an assignment for the benefit of creditors. The company had no venture debt but did raise nearly $70mm from Accel Partners, a Time Warner venture arm and investors affiliated with a Walmart ($WMT) venture affiliate.

Healthcare. Community Health Systems ($CYH) announced its preliminary Q2 financial and operating results and they weren't very pretty. Net operating revenues were down nearly $400mm relative to the same quarter last year. Categorical losses, however, were generally lesser than the year before. The stock - and that of spun-off Quorum Health Corporation ($QHC) took a dive after the report. Meanwhile, smaller ($1-10mm) healthcare providers continue to file for bankruptcy.

Noble Group. With $3b of debt and various other issues, lots of folks are souring on the name.

Och-Ziff. We've heard of camp counselor bonuses from satisfied parents but this $280mm package takes things to a whole new level. Also, long luck. 

Pure Unsupported Fantasy. Otherwise known as Sycamore Partnersclaim that Dollar Tree Stores submarined the Family Dollar merger. So Dollar Tree says, anyway.

Sears Canada. And we thought we were aggressive with some of our commentary:nice headline. Meanwhile, it appears that Eddie Lampert and Bruce Berkowitz couldn't figure out a way to get along in the sandbox, calling off their joint effort to bail out the embattled Canadian retailer. Now ESL Partners LP may sell some of its stake to take a tax loss. Berkowitz's Fairholme Capital Management LLC increased its holdings not too long ago.

Shopping Holidays. Get ready because it is undoubtedly coming. Fresh on the heels of Amazon Prime Day, other retailers are getting jiggy with it (looking at you Walmart and and intend to start their own shopping holidays. Looks like the big retailers want to make Labor Day even more pointless.

Retail (IPO'ing Like a Boss) $CURV $GOOS

IPO'ing a retailer these days takes plus-sized cajones.Torrid ($CURV), a California-based plus-sized retailer for women which spun out of Hot Topic will be listed on the NYSE for its upcoming IPO. The company is backed by Sycamore Partners. It posted a loss of $29.1mm for the fiscal year ended '17 on sales of $640mm. Surprisingly, other recent retail IPOs, e.g., Canada Goose ($GOOS), have performed remarkably well.  

Notable (Loan Defaults, Oncor, Staples, Takata Corp)

Loan Deficiencies. Some interesting numbers here.

Oncor. Warren Buffett to the rescue? Perhaps, perhaps not. It seems there may be competition for the asset. It looks like Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP stand to make good fees on the transaction if it goes through.

Staples. Details on Sycamore Partners' proposed LBO financing here.

Takata CorpMore professionals with a seat at the table.

Notable (Div Recaps, Golf, Molycorp, Sycamore Partners, WeWork)

Dividend Recaps. Apparently they are not an exclusively American phenomenon. 

Golf. The best one of us shot a 125 last week so take what we're about to say with a (bitter) grain of salt: golf is pretty lame. Okay, fine, we'll backtrack and admit: we're getting into it but we definitely can see why millennials aren't biting, why Golfsmith filed for bankruptcy and why Nike straight-up cancelled its golf line. Still, a lot of lawyers, bankers, investors, (douchebags,) and advisors play. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that golf is, in the words of Malcolm Gladwell, "crack cocaine for rich white guys." Read: a lot of you. Which is why we're bothering to mention it. Anyway, speaking of Gladwell, the new season of his solid podcast is up and you can listen to his first episode on the subject of golf here. It's worth the time - especially if you live in Los Angeles. 

MolycorpLots of fighting going on over the rare metals miner.

Sycamore Partners. The private equity shop is reportedly nearing a deal for Staples ($SPLS) for a reported $6b. 

WeWorkWhat happens to the upstart when the cycle turns? We reckon a lot of 363 lease rejections motions, that's what. 

Notable (3D Printing, Elliott Management, Sycamore Capital Partners, etc.)

3D Printing. We've previously noted the potential game changing effect of advancements in 3D printing technology. This view - from the bloggers at UPS - is a little more tempered but interesting nonetheless.

Brookfield Asset Management. Interesting.

Energy M&A. Reportedly, Vistra Energy Corp. is making moves to take over Dynegy Inc.

Gearing for Battle. Elliott Management
is hiring to prepare for a restructuring wave (firewall).

Short Coke & Pepsi (read: Bottled Water). On one hand, the volume of plastic water bottles is absurd and harmful to the environment...we get that. On the other hand, however, do we really need a BtoB subscription service for...wait for it...NYC tap water?!? We're split as to whether this is "notable" for its earnest save-the-environment vibe or for its "is this really a frikken problem in need of solving" vibe. We're leaning towards the latter. A nice little ranty blogpost from a petulant Eddie Lampert.

Sun Capital Partners & Sycamore Partners. The firm is looking to sell British bedding retailer Dreams - which it acquired out of administration back in 2013 - with Chinese companies in the mix to bid. Rothschild is the investment banker. Meanwhile, to avoid seeing another portfolio company in bankruptcy court, the firm has agreed to, in the event of a rights offering, recapitalize Vince Holding Corp. ($VNCE) with $30mm. Meanwhile, this was an interesting piece on Sycamore Partners and its potentially evolving strategy (though it neglected to acknowledge how dire Nine West is beginning to look).

Trickle Down EconomicsBullsh*t.

Interesting Restructuring News

  • Busted Tech. This is becoming a regular topic. After LivingSocial (remember LivingSocial?) and its $6b valuation sold for bupkis, serious doubts now surround its acquirer, the publicly-traded Groupon
  • Lit. Google released the results of a survey showing what is currently considered "lit" (read: "cool") among the teen and millennial demographics. A few observations: 1) Ivanka Trump's brand was conspicuously missing and so clearly there is a high probability of this being "fake news" (yes, we're joking); 2) Netflix and YouTube are the two highest rated brands in both demographics which certainly raises questions about conventional media companies; 3) Tesla is considered the coolest auto company despite not necessarily having the highest brand awareness (nevertheless a positive leading indicator for electric vehicles assuming a) these idiots will drive, b) they'll have money to buy a Tesla, and c) Tesla can manufacture enough cars to meet the supposed demand); 4) Still, car brands across the board are cooler to millennials than teens which raises questions - in the face of autonomous cars - about what car ownership may look like in the next decade; and 5) there is little to no consumer products representation in the "cool" zone outside of footwear and electronics (gaming, AppleGoPro) which speaks volumes about why we're seeing as much pain in the retail space as we have been. Notably, UniqloZara and H&M - favorite excuses for why conventional retail is, gulp, out of fashion, are all middling in the 6.5 area. Footnote: Quicksilver looks to have subpar awareness and "lit" ratings which begs the question: how long before Oaktree Capital Management flips it...?
  • Post-Reorg Equity. Apparently filing for bankruptcy hasn't turned out too badly for certain oil and gas executives who find that they're realizing a lot of upside value through the reorganized equity of their companies (WSJ firewall). Elsewhere, upon release back into the market, Peabody Energy's equity initially traded up 3.5% only to flip-flop and go negative by over 12% by market close on Tuesday. #MAGA baby! Coal is, uh...back??
  • Professional Fees. The American Lawyer seems to have it out for bankruptcy professionals these days as it seems freakishly obsessed with professional fees: in this instanceWeil's fees representing Westinghouse
  • Restaurants. "There's been an oversupply for 10 years in our industry," says the Darden Restaurants CEO Gene Lene upon announcing the acquisition of Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen. Still, the fast casual space is showing signs of strength: most notably, Panera Bread's stock popped upon acquisition news earlier this week.
  • Retail. We really tried to stay away from retail this week because, like you, we're just tired of the story. But, here (video), Jason Mudrick of Mudrick Capital Management provides some interesting thoughts on how to trade the space. This isn't new ground, necessarily, but for the less-initiated, his comments on the difficulty of shorting retail debt may be educational. Note, however, that his views are disputed by analysts at Citi who claim the CMBX trade is over-crowded and that CDS is, in fact, the way to go. Either way, his overall thesis seems a bit inconsistent to us. On one hand, he indicates that the "Amazon effect" (lazy) is leading to a secular decline in retail, generally, but on the other hand he leaves us with the impression that only the lower tier malls will be affected. If the "Amazon effect" is what it is and our parents will die and our kids only shop online (paraphrasing here), why isn't he mentioning the A tier malls as well? This seems to be a blind spot within the restructuring space generally. As we've noted, General Growth Properties and Simon Properties are appearing in the vast majority of these retail cases - even the little ones that nobody appears to have heard of prior to the last few months. Now, granted, there's something to be said for the "replacement value" argument: but are these mall operators really filling vacancies fast enough to maintain revenue and, if so, who is filling the void? Warby Parker currently has 47 "retail locations" (a term we use loosely because this includes small kiosks like the one in the Los Angeles Standard Hotel - basically a cart). Bonobos has 31 locations. Cuyana has three locations (one a pop-up). Birchbox has one location. And most of these are in major cities so not even necessarily in malls. And, directing you back to "Lit" above: we don't see much mall-based retail on that survey - "A" mall-based retail included. So then what? Chiropractors, dentists and clinics? Seems thin. All of this said, the WSJ reported that "the national retail-property market is holding steady," using flat vacancy rates as its measure across shopping centers, regional malls and neighborhood and open-air shopping centers. And mall operators, naturally, are talking a big game. Curious. (*Note: if anyone is interested, we do have a 50+ page hedge fund presentation outlining the CMBX thesis. Let us know).
  • Retail II. DAMN IT, retail, we just can't quit you. More from this past week: 1) Citi cut both L Brands and Urban Outfitters from buy to neutral, 2) Ralph Lauren announced the closure of its Fifth Avenue flagship store (with additional closures to come), 3) Bebe Stores announced the closure of its 34th Street store (great quotes within) and 4) the discount space saw some consolidation as Dollar General scooped up Charlotte-based Dollar Express, a Sycamore Partners company. We can therefore add this to our #MAGA! sub-category given the 2700 jobs slated to be cut. SO. MANY. JOBS. LIKE. REMARKABLE.
  • Second Order Effects....of advancing car tech. We previously covered Benedict Evans' presentation on the rise of mobile and made some abstract statements relating to second order effects of mobile phones and electric/autonomous cars then. Here, Evans goes a bit further in what makes for a long but interesting read about industries that ought to brace for change (thanks to our friends at Hilco for forwarding to us). TL;DR: car suppliers, machine tooling, car repair, gas stations, convenience store retailers (and, by extension, snack & tobacco providers), building power generation providers, safety equipment manufacturers (i.e., airbags - this is thin, we think, and airbags will probably still be in cars for the foreseeable future), parking operators, truck stops, etc. Of course, this all presumes mass adoption in the time frame the herd generally suggests: 5-10 years. There are notable naysayers.
  • Sungevity, a Piece of the Solar Story & Real World Ramifications. Yikes. This is a STINGING synopsis of the downfall of Sungevity, a solar company that recently filed for bankruptcy (our summary and case roster is here). To be fair, the writer seems to have some sort of ax to grind with the company but the comments taken from Glassdoor are, in many respects, heart-breaking and serve as a real-world reminder that while they may line your pockets and juice your bonuses, these cases hurt people. Remember that. 
  • Venezuela. With a state oil company debt payment of $2b looming on the horizon, investors are speculating about the likelihood of default.

  • Fast Forward: Someone just please put Seadrill Ltd. out of its misery. Per Bloomberg, rue21 is due any day nowSequa Corp....finally. And metals/mining looks like its back on the map with the announcement thatA&M Castle & Co. will be filing a prepackaged bankruptcy shortly.
  • Rewind I: We've been spending a good amount of time highlighting busted tech lately and so we'll add another (per Fortune): Yik Yak. For the uninitiated, Yik Yak was a high-flying anonymous social media app that garnered $73.5mm of VC from Sequoia Capital at a valuation over $400mm. Now it is effectively selling for parts (to Square?) in a manner that likely won't even cover the VC. Ouch. I suppose we can call this the "Snapchat Effect."
  • Rewind IIAshley Stewart, a plus-size retailer that was in bankruptcy in 2014 opened its first new store last weekend, a counter-narrative to the doom-and-gloom otherwise hanging over retail.
  • Rewind III: We've covered Spotify at length and this week's news of a potential direct listing rather than an IPO is interesting. And goes to show what we've been saying: that convertible venture debt it took on is getting expensive.

News for the Week of 2/26/17

  • Busted Startups. Here, Beepi. Despite $150mm of VC and a last raise at a $564 valuation, the used-car marketplace is selling for parts, with Sherwood Partners acting as assignee. With auto-lending for new cars at subprime levels, this capitulation isn't all-too surprising.
  • Busted Startups II. Some argue that part of the failing brick-and-mortar narrative relates to delivery services like Birchbox. Maybe not. Trunk Club sold to Nordstrom and has languished and now JackThreads looks like it's worth JackSh*t
  • Clean Energy. Challenges. But progress with storage.
  • Disruption. The fall of Blackberry.
  • Distressed Investing. In malls. These guys have cajones.
  • Greece. Remember the bailout controversies that sent the markets into a tizzy a few years back? Yeah, they're back. Europe looks staged for a lot of volatility in coming months with elections looming in France and Germany. This could create some real interesting investment opportunities. Of course, that's what people said of Brexit, too.
  • Power. Maybe. Maybe not. This week the denials poured down from Toshiba re: Westinghouse. Meanwhile, FirstEnergy drops some bombs in its investor presentation.
  • Restaurants. Five chains that look like dogsh*t in 2017.
  • Retail. Apparently President Trump's promises to make America great again did not take into account all of the vitriol that would be unleashed towards his brands and resulting domino effect: case and point, Perfumania, which was teetering BEFORE folks wanted to wash themselves of the Trump stank. Speaking of mall-based stench, L Brands' Victoria's Secret ain't looking so hot these days as forward guidance looked bleak. And Amazon announced the release of its discount bras. Cue Jaws theme song.
  • Retail II. People have been talking about Toys R' Us for years and in '16 they took steps to deal with the over-levered balance sheet. The company continues to cut costs on the ops side too. Meanwhile, other companies like J.Crew are engaging in Intellectual Property machinations to stave off the inevitable and raise financing - the legality of which remains an open question.
  • Retail III - Department Stores. AlixPartners makes a cameo appearance in this interesting summary of the state of department stores. Choice stat: "As recently as 1999, department stores had total sales of $230 billion. Last year they came in at $155.5 billion, according to Census data." Accordingly, JC Penney is closing 140 stores (and probably still has 300 too many) and Sears is continuing to cut costs with 130 HQ firings. On point, Macy's reported numbers this past week. And so did Walmart - and the market initially responded in a way that is a smack to Warren Buffett (see last week's newsletter). Meanwhile TJX Cos. (TJ Maxx, Home Goods, Marshalls) showed that brick-and-mortar still has some legs (as did Nordstrom).

  • Fast Forward: Ocean Rig acknowledged that it's effed and the stock took a dive: a possible bankruptcy is on the horizon. And Cumulus Media had a setback in its efforts to restructure.
  • Rewind I: Sporting goods - analysts are starting to notice the massive bloodbath and, accordingly, downgraded Dick's Sporting Goods.
  • Rewind II: Let's hope that Sycamore Partners' purchase of The Limited fares better than Versa Capital Management's investment in Eastern Outfitters. $26.8mm price tag. Meanwhile, Wet Seal is available.
  • Chart of the Week
  • Tweet of the Week: