Thoughts on Teekay Offshore have not changed

Teekay Offshore (NYSE: TOO) reported their Q1-2017 results last night and they were lacklustre. In particular, the introduction of a litigation dispute with their largest customer, Petrobras, in respect of the operation of an offshore rig is not helping matters for them.

Last quarter I wrote about how Teekay Offshore units are “not going anywhere“, and that was an understatement considering this stock graph in the interm:

The next pillar to fall is their common unit dividend. Teekay traditionally declares dividends at the beginning of the calendar quarter and pays them out mid-quarter. I would expect there would be a 50/50 chance that they will suspend common dividends at the end of June or early July, and this would probably have a negative impact on their unit price. There is also an outside chance that they would decide to suspend their preferred unit dividends at the same time until they have shored up their financial resources.

The reason for this would be that they have not stabilized their financial position. With approximately 149.7 million units outstanding, the cash outflow of $16.5 million/quarter is something they really need to be putting into their outstanding debt. Preferred units receive around $11 million/quarter in cash in distributions and in a couple years, another series of preferred shares will switch from payment-in-units to payment-in-cash distributions (another $10.5 million/year).

Saving $27 million a quarter in distributions has to be attractive for a management that needs to repay $589 million in 2017 (this information is from their 20-F filing for their 2016 annual report). Cash flows through vessel operations will bridge some of this, but they are still missing some capital to make it through. They are also uncomfortably close to a debt covenant that they maintain total liquidity of at least 5% of their total debt (which is about $150 million in liquidity).

If you remember this chart from an earlier presentation when they got investors to chip in another $200 million in equity (April 2016):

CFVO (Cash flows through vessel operations) in Q1-2017 was $141.3 million, while net debt is ($3.12 billion gross minus $0.29 billion cash = $2.83 billion) – doing the math, we have ($2,830 / 4*$141.3) = 5.00 Net Debt/CFVO ratio!

This is way off the original 4.5x target as projected by management and this is getting into very dangerous territory where management has to take other measures to get the balance sheet back into a reasonable condition.

The only silver lining I can think of is that net debt has dropped $13 million for the quarter, but this is such a minor fraction of the overall net debt that it is relatively inconsequential.

Thus, I will predict that short of another form of recapitalization (or extremely dilutive equity offering), management will likely cut distributions from Teekay Offshore.

On a side note, I have gotten used to the “personality” of their quarterly reports and presentations as they release them and they are quite skillful at illuminating the information that they want you to be seeing and not paying any attention to the worms and termites that are crawling under the rocks. These nuggets of information are usually buried in the subsequent (weeks later) 6-K filings they report to the SEC. Also they are quite good at not reconciling their current situation with past expectations as you can see in the above post of their CFVO/Debt chart.

Yellow Media – are they done?

Yellow Media (TSX: Y, and thankfully no positions in equity or debt) reported today what can only be described as a near-disaster of a quarter.

The elephant in the room is what will be (after May 31, 2017) $295 million of 9.25% senior secured notes which mature on November 30, 2018. About 95% of this debt is owned by Canso Investment Counsel Ltd., who also owns 23% of the company’s equity.

In other words, the corporation’s future, short of a surprise turnaround in financial results, completely depend on what Canso’s intentions are. Presently they are able to extract a 9.25% coupon out of the corporation via the senior secured debt and I very much think they would be reluctant to relinquish what is a first-in-line cash stream.

There is a $107 million issue of 8% unsecured debentures trading on the TSX (TSX: YPG.DB) which is also about 30% owned by Canso (maturing on November 2022). The power of this class of securityholder is much more tenuous than it was before Yellow’s recapitalization (in other words – at 98 cents on the dollar it is trading too high given the risk profile). The conversion rate is at CAD$19.04/share which is has little value at the existing equity price of CAD$5.80/share.

The financial situation at Yellow has deteriorated and although they project $50-55 million in free cash flow for 2017, their revenues are continuing to decay and this trend is likely to continue as they morph into a digital consulting firm.

Since their market cap (after today’s 25% decline) is $160 million, it might appear the stock is cheap from a market cap to free cash flow basis. But this is a total illusion for two reasons. One is that the enterprise value of $562 million makes it expensive in light of the decaying free cash flow. The second and more powerful factor is Canso’s control motivation. The return opportunity for shareholders is going to be quite stunted, absent of some surprise takeover bid (doubtful, but this is up to Canso) simply because Canso has too much power and ability to extract capital in what is a financially unfavourable position to Yellow.

This is going to hurt the minority equity holders.

The business story is simple and everybody knows it – Yellow Pages used to be the business Google of the offline world. It is no longer.

No positions, not interested in any unless if somebody wants to sell me that senior secured debt, but sadly Canso owns most of it.

Versasen – Bought out

Verasen (TSX: VSN) is a relatively boring utility company that had some exposure to a LNG project in Oregon (among other businesses that are less exciting). They’ve been on my radar since early 2016 but I opted for other investments at that time since there were other risk/reward opportunities.

Today they are being bought out by Pembina (TSX: PPL) in a merger that makes strategic sense. The premium over the previous day’s closing price was approximately 22%, depending on whether you can get cash or stock in the transaction.

Pembina is a huge corporation and they trade at a market cap that is well above my normal investment range.

It is always sad to see research candidates where you’ve dumped a few hours learning about the company, industry, competitive advantages, etc., go by the wayside, but that’s life in finance. Onwards to the next target.

Home Capital / Equitable Group Discussion #2

A few news items which are salient as this saga continues:

1. Home Capital announced a HISA balance of CAD$521 on Friday, April 28 and a GIC balance of $12.97 billion. On May 1, this is $391 million and $12.86 billion, respectively (another $220 million gone in a day). Their stock is down 21% as I write this.

2. Equitable announced their quarterly earnings and are up 35%. This was a pre-announcement as they previously stated they would announce on May 11, 2017. They announced:

* A dividend increase.

Between Wednesday and Friday, we had average daily net deposit outflows of $75 million, with the total over that period representing only 2.4% of our total deposit base and with the most significant daily outflows being on the Wednesday. Even after those outflows, our portfolio of liquid assets remained at approximately $1 billion.

Obtained a letter of commitment for a two-year, $2.0 billion secured backstop funding facility from a syndicate of Canadian banks, including The Toronto-Dominion Bank, CIBC, and National Bank (“the Banks”). The terms of the facility include a 0.75% commitment fee, a 0.50% standby charge on any unused portion of the facility, and an interest rate on the drawn portion of the facility equal to the Banks’ cost of funds plus 1.25%. This interest rate is approximately 60 basis points over our GIC costs and competitive with the spreads on our most recent deposit note issuance, and as such will allow us to continue growing profitably.

So their credit facility cost $15 million to secure $2 billion (relative to $100 million for HCG), lasts two years (relative to 1 year for HCG), and also have a standby charge of 0.5% (which is 2.0% less than HCG), and a real rate of interest of approximately 3% (compared to HCG paying 10% for their outstanding amount, and I’m assuming the Bank’s “cost of funds plus 1.25%” works out to around 3%).

I haven’t had a chance to review their financial statements in detail yet. But securing two billion on relatively cheap terms like this is going to be a huge boost to their stock in the short run.

Very interesting.

Genworth MI (TSX: MIC) is also down a dollar or 3.5% today, which is more than the usual white noise of trading. It dipped even lower today.

DREAM Unlimited and Birchcliff Preferred Shares – cash-like with higher yield

I’ve written in the past about DREAM Unlimited 7% preferred shares (TSX: DRM.PR.A) and the situation still applies today. They, along with Birchcliff 7% preferred shares (TSX: BIR.PR.C) are the only holder-retractable preferred shares trading on the entire Canadian stock market.

They are both trading slightly over par value.

In the case of Birchcliff, the preferred shares only become retractable on June 30, 2020. As such, the implied yield to retraction is around 6.14% (assuming CAD$25.50/share and not factoring in the accrued dividend). You would receive eligible dividends over the next three years and a capital loss upon retraction. The underlying corporation, while somewhat leveraged, is quite well positioned if you assume the North American natural gas market is not going to evaporate. There is also some upside catalyst to the business fundamentals (not to the preferred shares!) if North America finally gets a liquefied natural gas plant on the Pacific Coast, but this is not likely to happen since price spreads have narrowed significantly over the past couple years.

Liquidity on Birchcliff preferred shares is not the greatest – but if you float an ask at the ambient price level you will likely get hit a few hundred shares at a time.

In the case of DREAM, the premium is not extreme when factoring in the amount of accrued dividend (at the closing price of $7.29/share, implies a 6.88% yield with a risk of an immediate capital loss if the company decides to redeem at $7.16/share). It has been quite some time since they have traded at a discount to par, and this is likely due to scarcity of shares – shares outstanding have decreased from 4.87 million at the end of 2015 to 4.01 million at the end of 2016, and this trend is likely to continue. Holders are probably waiting for the inevitable call by the company to redeem the preferred shares. But until this happens, holders receive an eligible dividend of 7% on their preferred shares.

Likewise with Birchcliff, liquidity with DREAM preferred shares is not good. However, there is usually daily activity on the shares and the spreads are typically within pennies. In a financial panic, however, that liquidity might fade and in a quick trading situation you might get a price a percent or two below par value.

There is conversion risk – the company can choose to redeem the preferred shares in DREAM equity, to a minimum of $2/share or 95% of the market price (which is the standard 20 business day VWAP, 4 days before the conversion provision, as defined in section 4.09 on page 68 of this horrible document). With the common shares trading at $6.60 and the business fundamental not being terrible, the risk seems to be quite low that preferred shareholders will leave this situation with anything less than par value.

I have some idle cash parked in both instruments. I consider them a tax-advantaged cash-like instrument and do like the fact that they are margin-able at IB (Birchcliff at 50% and DREAM at 33%!). This is much better than putting the money in a Home Capital Group GIC (earn 2% fully-taxable interest income AND have the privilege of losing principal when they go insolvent)!

Does anybody out there know of any similar situations that relate to US-denominated preferred share securities that are “cash-like” in nature?

KCG cost of capital calculation

I will warn this is a very dry post.

The merger arbitrage spread with KCG has narrowed considerably.

When the $20 cash merger was announced the shares were trading at $19.75. There is little chance of the deal falling through or there being a superior offer.

Today KCG is trading at $19.88. The estimated close of the merger was reported to be “3rd quarter 2017”. The assumption is the mid-range, or August 15, 2017.

So there are 3.5 months until the deal closes.

12 cents appreciation is 0.6% over 3.5 months, which over the course of 3.5 months implies a 2.1% annualized rate, not compounding. This also excludes trading costs.

Because I had a small cash deficit in my USD account and a surplus in CAD, I’ve sold some shares at $19.88 to make up the shortfall. I placed it at the ask to minimize trading costs, which turned out to be 29 cents per 100 shares.

What’s interesting is my trade got hammered away, 100 shares at a time, approximately 2-4 seconds apart per trade. Interesting algorithms at play here.

I also believe Virtu (Nasdaq: VIRT) will have a more difficult time with the integration of KCG than they originally anticipate. The company cultures are significantly different and while the merger makes sense on paper, in practice it is going to be quite different. KCG was also dealing with a non-trivial data migration program on their own, from New Jersey to New York City and these sorts of technical details require highly skilled individuals to pull off without causing trading blow-ups. It might take them a year to get things stabilized after the merger is finished. KCG had huge growing pains of its own after it was reverse-takeovered by GetCo.

Home Capital / Equitable Group discussion

Home Capital (TSX: HCG) collapsed 60% on news that they are in the process (not obtained!) a secured credit facility for a 10% interest rate, and a 2.5% standby rate for the unused portion. They also announced that customer deposits have collapsed in recent days.

Needless to say, this is a huge amount of interest to be charged and the market’s reaction is fairly indicative of this being a very, very negative event for the company.

(Update, April 29, 2017 – This is a little late, but the company confirmed the secured credit facility on April 27, which including the $100 million commitment fee, means an effective rate of interest of 15% for a $2 billion borrow, or a 22.5% rate for a $1 billion borrow. The ex-chair on television said it was secured 2:1 by mortgage loans and is front-in line. Yikes!)

Equitable Group (TSX: EQB) also has collateral damage, down approximately 17%. Are they next?

No positions.

Home Capital Group, Equitable Group

Home Capital (TSX: HCG) and Equitable (TSX: EQB) have been hammered today as a result of fallout of the Ontario Securities Commission allegations that certain Home Capital Group executives have contravened the various regulations. They continue to perform damage control, today announcing their CFO (who was under the OSC investigation) will be stepping down and other various board changes.

Borrowing rates for Home Capital spiked to 26% today. Equitable, which normally has been an inexpensive borrow, had its cost to borrow rise to 2.75%.

Implied volatilities on options for HCG is also very expensive at present, around 110% for near-dated options and around 90% for a couple months out. EQB does not have options trading on their shares.

There has been an avalanche of media coverage (both in print and social media) about Home Capital and their woes. They have been pushed down to about 25% less than tangible book value.

This spill-over has not occurred to Genworth MI (TSX: MIC) at present.

The closing sale for Davis and Henderson

I’ve written a little bit about D+H Corporation (TSX: DH) in the past. On March 13, 2017 they received an all-cash buyout offer for CAD$25.50 from an international firm and there is no reason to believe this will fail.

In my opinion, DH shareholders are getting a good deal since there are plenty of storm clouds on the horizon for the company.

However, there is a lesson for me in this story even though the last time I owned shares was in 2010.

Back in October 2016 when they released their disaster of a quarterly earnings report, their stock subsequently traded as low as CAD$14.06, although realistically if you had started accumulating after their earnings disaster you would have received an average price of around CAD$15/share. I also predicted the company would slash its dividend in half (which it nearly did, from 32 cents to 12 cents a quarter) and thought the stock would get hit even further as I projected a spiral of selling by panicked investors.

This did not happen. Instead, when they announced their dividend slashing, the stock quickly went up to $16 and never looked back. The company announced a strategic review to sell out the firm on December 7, 2016 which sent the stock up to $21/share and you can see the rest of the story in the stock graph.

So in the span of six months between an earnings disaster and the buyout offer, the company’s stock price has appreciated by a factor of 70%.

In retrospect, the October quarterly report and subsequent dive in stock price (from $28.70 to $16.20) should have been an equity purchasing event, not an event to continue throwing eggs and rotten tomatoes at the corporate body.

It makes me wonder about my valuation methods and why I got this one incorrect.

I wasn’t in a very good position to invest back in October 2016 (I was mildly leveraged at the time), but even if I was in more of a cash situation I probably wouldn’t have dipped my toes until around CAD$12/share where I would have seen an acceptable risk/reward ratio.

I have performed equity and debt research on hundreds of companies. Some companies I keep current on even though I have not taken a position on them. Some companies I just look at once and don’t look at them again until years later when there is some reason for them to show up on my radar again. There are also some like D+H that I have invested in a long time ago and check in from time to time. Whenever companies like these appear again, there is always the knowledge that I have done my due diligence over a larger period of the company’s history compared to those that are freshly looking at the company. In the case of D+H, it will be sad to see this accumulated research knowledge go away, but that is life as an investor in publicly traded securities.

KCG Holdings: Bought out

KCG Holdings (NYSE: KCG) looks like it will finally be bought out by Virtu (Nasdaq: VIRT) for US$20/share, cash. They also announced their first quarter results, and according to my scorecard they did better than expected – while their bottom-line net income was slightly negative, they were significantly better on trading revenues than I was expecting. I was expecting a very lacklustre quarter due to incredibly low market volatility in the quarter. Interactive Brokers (Nasdaq: IBKR) is a regular conference call I read and they can attest to the impact of low market volatility on trading.

My investment history with KCG is quite fascinating. I did not disclose things here until October 2016, but I have been trading the stock at various times since 2013, which resulted in material performance gains, especially in 2013 (I took a fairly heavy call option position at the second half of the year). It has exhibited a narrow price range since its merger with GetCo after their August 2012 trading blow-up. The company has generally been off the radar of most investors as it received little analyst coverage and was treated like toxic trash.

Virtu has a plan to raise $1.65 billion in debt financing for the merger and also has sold $750 million in equity at $15.60/share, which should make the buyers happy considering they are now trading at $16.40/share – the market believes this will be quite valuable for Virtu. KCG’s existing 25% shareholder has consented to the agreement, which makes it very unlikely that the deal will not pass through KCG shareholder approval. Given the highly strategic nature of the acquisition, I also doubt there will be other competitors for KCG. Thus, this merger looks like a done deal.

Current trading is at US$19.75. The expected closing is in the third quarter of 2017. As the current spread between market and US$20.00 is around 127 basis points, this would imply a merger arbitrage spread of about 3.8% annualized, so I am in no rush to sell as I have nothing else to deploy my capital into.

The only other issue of concern is KCG’s senior secured debt, maturing on March 15, 2020. According to the fine print, the notes can presently be called off at 103.438 cents on the dollar and there is a required offer for 101 cents on the dollar due to the change of control (which would be redundant since the notes are trading over this in the marketplace). I would suspect Virtu would be eager to get these notes off the books as quickly as possible as they contain covenants that would otherwise restrict the KCG entity. I’ll hold onto these as long as possible but do not think they will survive much longer.