In our paper, Corporate Distress and Lobbying: Evidence from the Stimulus Act, forthcoming in the Journal of Financial Economics, we contribute to the long literature on corporate behavior in distress, as well as to studies of the consequences of financial distress. Using the financial crisis in 2008 as a negative shock to nonfinancial firms’ financial conditions, we document a novel fact on the relation between firms’ financial health and their lobbying activities. We compare the lobbying activities of firms before and after the onset of the crisis and find that firms with weak financial health—as measured by their CDS spread—lobby more. This result is robust to controlling for such firm-specific variables as size, profitability, and market-to-book ratio, all the firm characteristics that remain unchanged during the short window before and during the passage of the stimulus act, sector-wide time trends, and the adoption of different time windows for comparison in the difference-in-differences framework.
Posts Tagged ‘Distressed companies’
The English scheme of arrangement has existed for over a century as a flexible tool for reorganising a company’s capital structure. Schemes of arrangement can be used in a wide variety of ways. In theory a scheme of arrangement can be a compromise or arrangement between a company and its creditors or members about anything which they can properly agree amongst themselves. It is common to see both member-focused schemes and creditor-focused schemes. In practice the most common schemes are those which seek to transfer control of a company, as an alternative to a takeover offer, and those which restructure the debts of a financially distressed company with a view to rescuing the company or its business.
In recent years schemes of arrangement have proved popular as a restructuring tool not only for English companies but also for non-English companies. A number of recent high profile cases have allowed non-English companies to make use of the English scheme jurisdiction to restructure their debts, including Re Rodenstock GmbH  EWHC 1104 (Ch), Primacom Holdings GmbH  EWHC 164 (Ch), Re NEF Telecom Co BV  EWHC 2944 (Comm), Re Cortefiel SA  EWHC 2998 (Ch) and Re Seat Pagine Gialle SpA  EWHC 3686 (Ch). Typically, these cases involve financially distressed companies registered in another EU Member State making use of an English scheme of arrangement without moving either their seat or Centre of Main Interest (COMI). In general, the main connection to England is the senior lenders’ choice of English law and English jurisdiction as governing their lending relationship with the company.
The topic of this outline is mergers and acquisitions where the target company is “distressed.” Distress for these purposes generally means that a company is having difficulty dealing with its liabilities—whether in making required payments on borrowed money, obtaining or paying down trade credit, addressing debt covenant breaches, or raising additional debt to address funding needs.
Distressed companies can represent attractive acquisition targets. Their stock and their debt often trade at prices reflecting the difficulties they face, and they may be under pressure to sell assets or securities quickly to raise capital or pay down debt. Accordingly, prospective acquirors may have an opportunity to acquire attractive assets or securities at a discount. This outline considers how best to acquire a distressed company from every possible point of entry, whether that consists of buying existing or newly-issued stock, merging with the target, buying assets, or buying existing debt in the hope that it converts into ownership.
Some modestly distressed companies require a mere “band-aid” (such as a temporary waiver of a financial maintenance covenant when the macroeconomy has led to a temporary decline in earnings, but the company is able to meet all of its obligations as they come due). Others require “major surgery” (as where the company is fundamentally over-levered and must radically reduce debt).
Schulte Roth & Zabel is pleased to present Distressed Investing M&A, published in association with mergermarket and Debtwire. Based on a series of interviews with investment bankers, private equity practitioners and hedge fund investors in the US, this report examines the market for distressed assets at home and abroad.
Economic uncertainty brought on by the looming US “fiscal cliff” have placed companies in difficult situations where many are forced to sell assets and restructure operations and debt in order to avoid a court mandated sale further down the line. The value gained and time saved by selling assets prior to in-court restructuring and liquidation is signaled by the respondents’ shift toward dealmaking early and out-of-court.
Outside of the US, the eurozone crisis and macroeconomic concerns in the emerging markets are having a similar effect. While some are waiting for a solution to the sovereign debt crisis, distressed investors are geared to take advantage of attractively-priced assets within the region. Hyperinflation remains a concern for the markets in Latin America and India, while economic growth has slowed in Brazil and China. Both are likely to create distressed opportunities over the next 12 months.
Respondents cite the energy sector as likely to be the most active for distressed M&A in the next year. Low natural gas prices in the US are hitting the bottom line and companies are feeling the strain. Additionally, inflation concerns in Asia may expose manufacturing companies, who respondents describe as “losing the battle” against prices.
In addition to the above findings, this report provides insight into pricing, litigation, club deals, and various other issues concerning the distressed M&A community. We hope you find this study informative and useful, and as always we welcome your feedback.
Earlier in October, Federico Cenzi Venezze and I posted “A Capital Market, Corporate Law Approach to Creditor Conduct” up on SSRN. Michigan Law Review is scheduled to publish the article in their next volume.
In this article, we focus on the problem of creditor conduct in distressed firms — for which policymakers ought to have the economically-sensible repositioning of the distressed firm as a central goal. This problem has vexed courts for decades, without coming to a stable doctrinal resolution. It’s easy to see why developing an appropriate rule here has been difficult to achieve: A rule that facilitates creditor operational intervention going beyond ordinary collection on a defaulted loan can induce creditors to intervene perniciously, to shift value to themselves. But a rule that confines creditors to no more than collecting their debt can allow failed managers to continue mismanaging the distressed firm, with the only real alternative to the failed incumbent management — the creditor — being paralyzed by unclear and inconsistent judicial doctrine.
The article proceeds in four steps. For the first step, we show that existing doctrines do not address themselves to facilitating efficacious management of the failing firms. Yet with corporate and economic volatility as important as ever, courts should seek to make doctrine here more functionally-oriented than it now is.
In the paper, Private Equity and the Resolution of Financial Distress, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine how private equity owners influence the outcome of distressed restructurings and the costs of financial distress. The impact of PE ownership on the likelihood or severity of distress is unclear. There are several reasons to expect a positive role for PE sponsors. The discipline of high leverage could lead to higher operating efficiency and lower the chance of financial distress. Further, if value declines, PE owners have strong incentives to correct this decline to preserve their equity stake, including by committing capital to support the distressed company. PE sponsors also have an incentive to preserve their reputation with lenders and future investors, even when they may lose an insolvent firm during restructuring. On the negative side, actions by aggressive private equity owners to boost their financial return, such as leveraging up a firm to pay large dividends, could drain needed liquidity from PE-owned firms and put these firms at a higher risk of default.
The beginning of the credit crisis in mid-2007 and other recent economic trends have increased the number of distressed companies that are seeking to sell assets as part of their plans to improve their financial condition or undergo other corporate debt restructurings. Based on recent financial data, the number of distressed companies soared from the fall of 2007 to the summer of 2008, as have the number of downgrades of corporate bonds.
Companies with sound fundamentals may become available at attractive prices in the coming years, particularly compared to the sometimes-inflated valuations attached to many companies in the non-distressed market. However, buying distressed assets and companies inside or outside of bankruptcy court poses certain potential dangers and challenges that do not present themselves in the non-distressed M&A market, but also offers more significant upside opportunities for potential purchasers. To capitalize on these opportunities, buyers need to be especially focused on identifying distressed sellers and conducting the acquisition process in a manner that minimizes these dangers while maximizing these opportunities as much as possible.
As more fully discussed in our chapter entitled “Important Tools in Distressed M&A Transactions,” the Chapter 11 process may provide both buyers and sellers with tools that will help them make the best of a distressed merger and acquisition transaction. Among other topics, the chapter considers practical considerations for buyers in distressed M&As, agreements in distressed M&As, and acquisitions pursuant to a ’363 Sale’ or a confirmed chapter 11 plan.
The chapter is available here.