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?

Dream Unlimited Preferred Shares

With the calamity hitting the preferred shareholders of Dundee Corp (of which I narrowly escaped), I have long noticed that their spinoff corporation, DREAM Unlimited (TSX: DRM) has a similar situation going on with their own preferred shares.

You will have to dig through SEDAR and look for a May 31, 2013 document that is 8783kb in size and go to page 60 of 141 in the PDF document for a legal definition of what these preferred shares are. They made it so convenient as the documents are not even made searchable with the usual control-F function on Adobe Acrobat.

They trade as DRM.PR.A and they are retractable by the corporation at $7.16/share, and redeemable by the shareholder at $7.16/share, in both cases with accrued dividends (7% coupon on a $7.16 par value). Redemption and retraction are given with at least 30 calendar days of notice.

Unlike Dundee Corp, there is no ability for DREAM Unlimited to sneak a shareholder-hostile proposal to scrap the redemption feature without a significant sweetener – if they did so, you can “vote” by exercising your redemption rights and get your money 30 days later instead of voting your shares against such a hypothetical proposal.

The only risk is the underlying corporation, DREAM Unlimited, elects to pay the redemption with common shares. The provision is 95% of the typical 20 day volume weighted average price scheme that is common to a lot of other offerings out there, or $2/share if this is the higher price. DREAM Unlimited common shares are trading at $7/share and with a market capitalization of $526 million, so a dilution of $36.7 million is not going to hammer the common shares below $2 if they tried an equity redemption – you’d likely be able to get out above par value in such an instance. The underlying business is not prone to “gap risk” (i.e. this isn’t some biotechnology company that will drop 70% one day due to a failed clinical trial), but it is in real estate development – this means that any of their properties that are not in Alberta or Saskatchewan, should be relatively stable (at least until you can get your redemption money in 30 days time).

In typical Dundee fashion, however, while the corporation is reporting considerable GAAP profits, their cash flow statements leave much to be desired. They do have ample liquidity in the meantime, having negotiated a $175 million million first-line facility with the banks expiring June 2018 and also $200 million of spare capacity on their operating line of credit which expires on June 2017. There is easily enough room to pay for a redemption of preferred shares – indeed, the fact that the preferred shares occupy a $36.7 million hole on their balance sheet probably forces them to be more conscious about this liability. I wonder why they haven’t even just bitten the bullet and redeemed this expensive capital.

In other words, the market value of this preferred share issue is going to be anchored around the $7.16/share mark as investors are able to skim off a 7% eligible dividend until such time the corporation bites the bullet and finally redeems the shares. If it goes too below $7.16, it is an easy arbitrage to buy below $7.16 and instantly redeem if you believe there is any sense of credit risk. It is as close to a risk-free 7% as it gets.

I note that the preferred shares were trading as low as $7.00 today and this was likely fueled by some investor out there getting his RBC Margin account spontaneously liquidated – it wasn’t a trivial amount either, around 40k shares worth. About 30,000 of them traded at $7.00 and somebody redeeming them back to the corporation at $7.16 made the easiest CAD$5000 on the planet. Ordinarily DRM.PR.A is not an actively traded stock and with all of the stress occurring in the marketplace, what may be “risk-free” isn’t as liquid as cold hard cash!

Anyway, I bought some shares at $7.00 today.