E-commerce provider files for bankruptcy after hacking breach

Austin-based Volusion LLC has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the Southern District of Texas. Volusion is a provider of cloud-hosted online stores for small and medium-sized businesses. However, in late 2019, hackers compromised the Google cloud infrastructure of the company and stole 239,000 credit card records. The hackers sold the stolen credit cards for at least $1.6 million.



Volusion was founded by Kevin Sproles in 1999 when he was 16 years old. He returned to the company in 2015 as CEO, though he stepped down from that role in August 2019, shortly before the breach took place.

Mr Sproles still owns 88% of the equity. Main Street Capital, a Houston-based public company, owns 8% of the equity, which they valued at $12.95 million in their most recent annual report. Main Street also has a further $19.2 million in secured debt and $0.3 million in unsecured debt invested in the company.  The other 4% of the equity is owned by another Houston company, HMS Equity Holdings, which also has secured debt outstanding.

According to a research report by Gemini, the hackers inserted malicious JavaScript code onto the company’s servers. This was then loaded onto at least 6,589 online stores of customers of Volusion. The malicious code recorded payment card details as it was being entered onto checkout forms. The breach occurred on September 7, 2019 and was discovered on October 8. The stolen card data was put up for sale on the dark web in November.

Tim Stallkamp of Conway MacKenzie has been appointed Chief Restructuring Officer of the company.

Volusion llc Chapter 11

 

 

Another Houston E&P company files for bankrutpcy

Rosehill Resources, which has its head office in west Houston, has filed for bankruptcy in the Southern District of Texas. At the beginning of the month, the company had stated it had a pre-packaged plan agreed with most of its creditors.



History of the company

The company operates in the Delaware Basin, a sub-basin of the Permian Basin where it had 15,785 gross acres. It currently operates or owns working interests in 133 oil and gas wells, though, back in March, it announced the suspension of all drilling and completion activity for the rest of 2020. The company was formed in 2017 when KLR Energy Acquisition, a blank check company, acquired Tema Oil & Gas in a deal valued at $445 million.

Amounts owed

At the time of filing, the company owed $226 million on a revolving credit facility. In March the company had drawn $340 million on the revolving credit facility, however it monetized all its hedges for $88 million to pay the balance down. The company also owed  $106 million on second lien 10% Secured Notes due January 2023. The notes are owned by EIG Management Company or its affiliates, an investment firm.

The main terms of the bankruptcy plan are

  • The Secured Noteholders will get 68.60% of the equity in the reorganized company
  • The Secured Noteholders and Tema have agreed to provide a $17.5 million debtor-in-possession financing facility. In return they will get 25.84% of the equity.
  • Tema will get 4% of the equity. This is because, at the time of sale, it had a tax receivable that Rosehill agreed to collect on its behalf, for a 10% administrative fee. At the time of filing, this was valued at $89 million.
  • The Preferred Series A stock holders will get 1.48%, provided none of the stock holders objects to the plan.
  • A new revolving credit facility of $235 million will be put in place.
  • All unsecured creditors will be paid in full

Rosehill Chapter 11

NRG to buy Houston-based Direct Energy

NRG has agreed to buy Houston-based Direct Energy from Centrica for $3.6 billion in cash. The company expects to save $300 million in synergies, much of it from the elimination of duplicate headquarters and back office functions.

NRG is an integrated power company that has its head office in New Jersey. It has an operational head office in Houston as most of its retail revenues are in Texas. Its generating capacity is split more evenly between Texas, New York, Connecticut, Illinois and California.



Direct Energy was acquired by UK-based Centrica in 2000 for $912 million. At that time, Centrica (formerly a nationalized company called British Gas) was looking to grow internationally. Through Direct Energy, it subsequently acquired Clockwork, a home services franchise platform that operated brands such as One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning, Benjamin Franklin Plumbing and Mister Sparky Electric.

In recent years, Centrica has been losing market share in its home market. This forced it to retreat from its international operations. It sold Clockwork last year for $300 million.

When Direct Energy was acquired, its head office was in Toronto, Ontario.  The head office moved to Houston in 2012. It is one of the largest retail providers of electricity, with customers in all 50 states. The acquisition allows NRG to diversify its retail customer base.

NRG expects to achieve $300 million in synergies by 2023 while spending $220 million in one-off costs to do that. It doesn’t quantify how it gets to the $300 million but does state that there will be ‘facility savings with significant employee geographic overlap, co-loaded headquarters and branch offfices’.

The transaction is expected to close by the year end.

https://investors.nrg.com/events/event-details/business-update-call

 

 

CFO leaves struggling retailer

[Update 08-02-20 Tailored Brands has now filed for bankruptcy]

Jack Calandra, CFO of Tailored Brands, is leaving the company in a cost-cutting move. The retailer, which has its head office in the Westchase area of Houston, operates 1,445 stores (mainly Men’s Wearhouse and Jos A Bank) and has been hit hard by global pandemic. All stores were shut between mid-March and early May. Sales are down substantially since most they reopened.



At the beginning of this month, the company announced it had elected not to pay interest on its 7% Senior Notes due 2022. Legally, the company has a 30-day grace period to make the payment before the non-payment is considered a default. In practice, it is negotiating with lenders on terms for a possible bankruptcy plan.

Mr Calandra will leave effective July 31, 2020. He will receive a lump sum payment of $600,000, which is the equivalent of one year’s base salary. The company has no immediate plans to replace Mr Calandra. Instead his duties will be divided up between CEO Dinesh Lathi and Holly Etlin, who has been appointed Chief Restructuring Officer. Ms Etlin is a Managing Director at AlixPartners.

The company has promoted John Vazquez to be the Chief Accounting Officer and Treasury. He was serving as the Vice President – Financial Reporting.

Layoffs and Store closures

The company will close up to 500 stores and reduce its corporate workforce by approximately 20%. It will record a $6 million charge for severance and other termination costs in the current quarter.

At the end of February 2020, the company had debt of $1.1 billion. In June it announced that it  had borrowed an additional $310 million from the credit facility. The company had $200 million of cash on hand. It’s market capitalization is currently just $34 million.

Disastrous Acquisition

As a reminder, back in September 2013, Jos A Bank made an unsolicited offer to buy Houston-based The Men’s Wearhouse for $2.3 billion (in cash at a 42% premium). Instead The Men’s Wearhouse ended up buying Jos A Bank for $1.8 billion in June 2014 (in cash at a 56% premium). The combined company was renamed Tailored Brands. Within 18 months, it had written off $1.3 billion of that. This is one of the most spectacular destructions of shareholder value in recent years!

The CEO in charge of that acquisition left in 2018 with a $10 million severance package. Mr Calandra was not part of that acquisition, having joined in December 2016.

SEC filing – Tailored Brands CFO to depart

 

 

Well known Oilfield Services company files for bankruptcy

BJ Services, which has its head office in Tomball, TX has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. There is no pre-packaged plan in place. If agreement can’t be reached with the lenders in the next few days, the company may have to liquidate. The company has laid off 800 employees since March and a further 1,250 jobs are at risk.

BJ Services currently operates 42 pressure pumping fleets (2.1 million hydraulic horsepower) and 180 cementing pumps.



History of the company

The company has one of the most well-known brand names in oilfield services. Byron Jackson, an inventory of pumps for farmers and miners in California, founded the original company in 1872. Hughes Tool acquired the company in 1974. Hughes merged with Baker International to form Baker Hughes in 1987. In 1990 Baker Hughes spun off BJ Services into a public company only to acquire it again in 2010 in a $5.5 billion transaction.

The current incarnation was created in November 2016 when Baker Hughes contributed its pressure pumping assets into a new joint venture with Allied Completion Holdings, another pressure pumping company that is backed by CSL, a private equity firm based in Houston.  Baker Hughes ended up owning 47% of the joint venture and its share was valued at $566 million. That investment has been written down to zero due to losses incurred by BJ since 2016.

BJ Services filed for an Initial Public Offering in June 2017 though at the time the company was losing money, even at the EBITDA level. It never completed its offering and eventually withdrew its registration statement in March 2019.

Current debt load

BJ Services currently has $357 million of debt. This comprises $102 million of an asset-based loan, $190 million in equipment term loans and $65 million for real estate term loans. These loans are held by different lender groups.

The drastic downturn in drilling and completions caused by the collapse in oil prices in March 2020 caused the company to engage Kirkland & Ellis and PJT Partners as restructuring partners.

CSL offered to invest an additional $75 million in new-money in exchange for the vast majority of the equity in the reorganized company. However, the deal was contingent on generating $120 million from the sale or liquidation of certain non-core assets. That money would go to the equipment lenders.

The company also expected to sell the cementing business for $30 million or more, on a going-concern basis.  On the pressure pumping side, CSL has bid for 3 of the 42 frac fleets on a going-concern basis. CSL has also offered to buy the research and development for the next generation of pressure pumping units.

Proposed deals fall through

The proposed deals fell through because the company, CSL and the various lenders couldn’t agree on terms of the proposed write-downs to be shared by the parties and how the businesses being sold would be funded on a going-concern basis. Given the potential conflicts that CSL has and that the equipment lenders have collateral in the pressure pumping and cementation fleets but not in the R&D, I am not surprised.

The company is trying to get all parties to agree a reorganization plan in the next 7 days. If not, the company may not have funds to operate on a going-concern basis and may be forced to liquidate its assets in an orderly wind-down.

Declaration by BJ Services CEO in support of Chapter 11 filing

 

Chevron to acquire Noble Energy for $5 billion

Chevron has agreed to buy Houston-based Noble Energy for $5 billion in an all-stock deal. The price is $10.38 per share. Including debt, the deal values Noble at $13 billion.

The price represents a premium of nearly 8% over the closing price on Friday. However it is considerably lower than the 52-week high of $27.31.



Noble’s primary assets are in the Eastern Mediterranean sea (Israel and Cyprus).  These will fit well with Chevron’s assets in Egypt. Noble also has 92,000 contiguous net acres in the Permian which are next to Chevron’s acreage. Noble also has 336,000 of net acres in the DJ Basin in Colorado. This would be a new onshore basin for Chevron.

Chevron will also acquire Noble’s 63% stake in publicly-traded Noble Midstream Partners.

Chevron expects to generate annualized operating and cost synergies of $300 million, though there were no details of how this is broken out.

The deal represents the first major acquisition by Chevron since it decided not to get into a bidding war with Occidental last year for Anadarko. Chevron did, however, walk away with a $1 billion termination fee from that contest.

Severance payments

The executive management of Noble will receive large payments if they are terminated becasue of a change of control. Chairman and CEO David Stover will receive a severance payment of $8.2 million, representing 2.99 times base salary and target annual bonus. He will also get close to $10 million in pro-rated bonuses and stock that vests. Likewise COO Brent Smolik will get a $4 million cash severance and another $5 million in pro-rated bonuses and stock vesting. The figures for CFO Ken Fisher are $1.2 million and close to $3 million, respectively.

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2020.

SEC filing – Chevron to acquire Noble Energy

 

Another Houston man charged with PPP fraud

Joshua Argires, 29, of Houston, has been charged with COVID relief fraud. He allegedly made two fraudulent applications for more than $1.1 million in forgivable loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).



The complaint alleges that Mr Argires made applications on behalf of two businesses, Texas Barbecue and Houston Landscaping. He allegedly claimed that the two companies had numerous employees and hundreds of thousands of dollars in payroll expenses.

The $956,000 Texas Barbecue loan was funded through PrimeWay Federal Credit Union, while the Houston Landscaping loan was funded by Bank of America.

The funds received on behalf of Texas Barbecue were allegedly invested in a cryptocurrency account. The funds obtained for Houston Landscaping were held in a bank account and slowly depleted via ATM withdrawals.

Mr Argires is charged with making false statements to a financial institution, wire fraud, bank fraud and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions.

Last month, another Houston man, Jase Gautreaux, was charged with fraudulently seeking over $13 million through PPP loans.

https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdtx/pr/another-houston-man-charged-covid-relief-fraud

Houston Frac sand company files for bankruptcy

Hi-Crush, a frac sand supplier, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company, which is based in the Galleria, has been hard hit by the downtown in completion activity following the COVID-19 pandemic.



It’s a pre-packaged bankruptcy as the company has agreement of 94% of the senior unsecured noteholders. The main terms are;

  • $450 million senior loan noteholders get 100% of the new common stock to be issued by the company.
  • Existing shareholders will be wiped out
  • There will be a $43.3 million rights offering whereby existing noteholders and other eligible holders of unsecured claims will be granted rights to purchase new secured convertible notes.
  • Debtor-in-financing facilities including a $25 million asset-based revolving loan facility and a $40 million delayed-draw term loan. The latter will convert into new senior secured convertible notes upon exit from Chapter 11.

Retention Bonuses

Of course, it’s not a Energy bankruptcy without retention bonuses for senior management.  These were paid on Friday 10 July. CEO Robert Rasmus got a $1.35 million retention payment (more than 2x base salary), COO Michael Oehlert was paid $693,750 while General Counsel Mark Skolos got $552,750.  CFO Phil McCormick got a $360,000 bonus. This replaces the $250,000 retention bonus that was promised when Mr McCormick promoted to the CFO position in December 2019.

The bonuses will be considered earned and therefore not repayable once the company exits Chapter 11.  That is expected within 60 to 90 days. The executives are not eligible for any annual bonus in 2020.

$2.5 billion market cap in 2014

Hi-Crush went public in 2012 and, initially, was primarily a supplier of ‘Northern White’ sand from Wisconsin, a premium sand used in fracking. The company had a peak market capitalization of over $2.5 billion in the middle of 2014. In recent years, E&P operators began seeking cheaper alternatives and the company made acquisitions of mines in the Permian Basin.

The company was originally a limited partnership before converting to a C-Corp in 2019. However a partnership structure is not ideal when the underlying business is so volatile.

Excessive distributions

The company paid out $82 million in distributions in 2017 and $167 million in 2018. These figures approximate to net income for those years. However the company also had heavy capital expenditures in each of those years of about $100 million in excess of the depreciation charge. The large cash outflow was funded by an additional $250 million in debt, at 9.5% interest, in 2018.

Even though that debt was not due to be repaid until 2026, the debt burden was too much for the company to bear.

SEC filing – Hi-Crush bankruptcy

Kirby to restate results after goodwill impairment error

William Alden

Kirby Corporation is restating its first quarter results following an error it made in its goodwill impairment charge. Instead of a pre-tax charge of $260 million, it should have booked a charge of $388 million. After taxes, the net income loss increased by $99 million.



Kirby is the largest domestic tank barge operator, transporting bulk liquid products. It also provides after-market services and parts for engines, transmissions and gears. Just over half of these parts are sold to oilfield service and E&P companies. The company has its head office just west of downtown Houston.

New goodwill impairment test

The goodwill impairment occurred in its distribution and services segment and was a result of the dramatic decline in its share price during the first quarter. The company was tripped up by revisions the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) made in the process of testing for goodwill impairment. These revisions came into effect at the beginning of 2020 for Kirby.

In certain circumstances when performing a goodwill impairment test a company can get into a circular logic loop. If the fair value of a reporting unit is below the carrying value, triggering an impairment, a deferred tax asset (arising from the book/tax differences in the treatment of goodwill) can increase in value, causing an additional impairment. This causes the deferred tax asset to increase, triggering more impairment. To address this, in the new guidance, FASB mandated the use of a simultaneous equation to solve the problem.

Kirby did not perform the simultaneous equation in its initial accounting for the impairment loss.

Effect of writedown

Prior to the writedown, the company had goodwill of $954 million and intangible assets of $211 million out of total net assets of $3.4 billion. In addition to the writedown on goodwill, it also impaired the value of intangible assets by $165 million.

Kirby stressed that the impairment was a non-cash item and had no impact on EBITDA. While that is technically true, I often find such explanations disingenuous when companies use them.

Stewart & Stevenson

Kirby didn’t specify which acquisition was the primary cause of the impairment. The likely culprit is the acquisition of Stewart & Stevenson in September 2017. Kirby paid $758 million for the business that included $331 million of goodwill and $155 million of intangible assets. It paid for the business with $378 million in cash and the rest in stock.  It sounds like Kirby has written off all the goodwill and intangible assets from that business. Operating margins in the Distribution and Service segment have fallen from 10% in 2017 to 5% in 2019 and 1.5% in the first quarter of 2020.

In other words, Kirby massively overpaid for Stewart & Stevenson. Ultimately, it’s the shareholders who pay for that profligacy.

SEC filing – Kirby to restate goodwill impairment

 

Activist investor takes aim at Crown Castle

[UPDATE 7/29/2020 – Crown Castle has bowed to pressure and is making changes. The Board will not now nominate a non-employee director who is 72 or older. That means three directors will step down in 2021 and two in 2022. The company also said it will be reviewing its executive compensation policy].

Elliott Management, the activist investor, has gone public with its criticisms of Crown Castle. In short, Elliott believes the company has under performed because it has invested heavily in fiber investments which give a low return on investment.



Crown Castle has a market capitalization of $71 billion, the largest of any company with its head office in Houston. It owns 40,000 wireless towers in the US. The company is one of the big three US players in wireless towers along with American Tower (market cap $113 billion) and SBA Communications (market cap $32 billion).

The company suffered an accounting embarrassment in February when it admitted it had overstated equity by $463 million as it had recognized too much revenue on tower installation services. It had to restate its financial statements for 2017 and 2018. The SEC are still investigating.

Elliott stated it had a $1 billion economic interest in the company and has been conducting a private dialogue with the management for the past month.

Elliott is very complimentary about the tower business. As a market, tower leasing is very profitable and highly cash generative. For the Crown Castle’s tower business, EBITDA minus capex has been over $2 billion a year.

Low return Fiber business

However, while the other two big players are expanding into international towers, Crown Castle made the decision to expand into fiber. It owns 80,000 route miles of fiber in the US, primarily through five acquisitions made since 2012 for a combined $11 billion. According to Elliott, capex is 149% of EBITDA for the fiber business. As a result, towers have a return on investment of 20%, while fiber has a return of 3% (compared to a cost of capital of 8%).

Moving the goalposts on the compensation plan

Elliott also takes aim at the current Crown Castle compensation plan. Currently annual bonuses are based on only two metrics – adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted Funds from Operations (AFFO) per share. AFFO is a complicated non-GAAP metric but it is basically net income plus real estate depreciation. The major difference between the two metrics is interest expense. Neither metric takes into account discretionary capex.

Elliott also complains that, in 2018, Crown Castle changed its Long Term Incentive Plan so that instead of measuring total stockholder returns against its peers, it switched to measuring against a mix of the S&P 500 and a goal of 11.5% annualized return. Given the high growth rates in the tower business, this lowered the bar for achievement.

Entrenched Board

Elliott would also like to see changes to the Board. 8 of the 11 non-executive directors have served for at least 13 years. This includes two former CEOs of Crown Castle. The Chairman of the Board, Landis Martin has been in that role since 2002.

The company responded by stating it had a proven track record for creating shareholder value. It didn’t commit to any changes but said it would remain open to having a continuing dialogue with Elliott.

Elliott presentation on Crown Castle

Crown Castle responds to Elliott