June 16, 2020

“. . .And It’s Gone!” Bankrupt Hertz Offers $500 Million in Equity

Do you remember that “South Park” episode that aired during the financial crisis in which one of the characters deposits a $100 birthday check from his grandmother into the bank? The banker takes the money, “puts it to work” in a mutual fund and immediately announces “. . . and it’s gone!”  That episode was the first thing that came to mind when I read this risk factor language in Hertz’s pro supp for a $500 million ATM offering launched in the midst of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding:

Although we cannot predict how our common stock will be treated under a plan, we expect that common stock holders would not receive a recovery through any plan unless the holders of more senior claims and interests, such as secured and unsecured indebtedness (which is currently trading at a significant discount), are paid in full, which would require a significant and rapid and currently unanticipated improvement in business conditions to pre-COVID-19 or close to pre-COVID-19 levels.

That’s pretty bleak disclosure, and nobody can say they weren’t warned about the perils of this investment. Even so, Hertz’s decision to tap the public equity market – which the bankruptcy court approved last Friday – in its current financial state definitely raises the bar when it comes to corporate chutzpah. On the other hand, can you blame the company for trying to capitalize on the recent speculative frenzy in its stock in order to increase the size of its bankruptcy estate?

If “Davey the Day Trader” & the gang are willing to sign up to buy stock that the company is basically telling them is worthless, then maybe instead of South Park, I ought to cite 1920s speakeasy impresario Texas Guinan, who famously welcomed her customers by exclaiming, “Hello suckers! C’mon in and leave your wallets at the bar!”

IPOs: Virtual Road Shows On the Rise

The grueling, globe-trotting – “if it’s Tuesday this must be Zurich” – road show process has long been a big part of the IPO experience for management teams & their bankers. In the Covid-19 era, however, this PitchBook article says that virtual road shows may become the “new normal”:

Virtual IPO roadshows likely are here to stay after the pandemic, said Andreas Bernstorff, head of equity capital markets at BNP Paribas. BNP was one of the lead bankers for Peet’s €2.25 billion (around $2.55 billion) IPO on Euronext in May. Bernstorff acknowledged that sizing up a founder or its executives can be more difficult through video without making eye contact or reading body language.

Nevertheless, he said, virtual roadshows have exposed inefficiencies in the IPO process.

“The benefits are obviously avoiding traveling around the world, but also the fact that it can be a faster and more efficient way to reach more investors,” Bernstorff said. “It also has a very distinct benefit of being able, up to a degree, to shorten the period in which one needs to be in the market.”

The article says that fully virtual road shows may not make sense for all issuers. Companies with a low profile and those that operate in volatile markets will likely continue to find it necessary to meet in-person with key investors as part of the marketing process.

Will CLOs Turn the Covid-19 Crisis into a Full Blown Financial Crisis?

If you find yourself sleeping too soundly, check out this article from the July issue of The Atlantic.  The article says that collateralized loan obligations, or CLOs, share many similarities with the CDOs that nearly tanked the global financial system a decade ago – and the balance sheets of major banks are full of them.

The problem is that these AAA rated pieces of paper are comprised of a bunch of low-quality corporate debt, and the rash of bankruptcy filings expected in the wake of the pandemic may well upset the applecart when it comes to the default rate assumptions on which those investment grade ratings were based.  What’s the worst “worst case” scenario? According to the article, it’s very, very bad.

John Jenkins