A ‘slipped under the radar’ story (in this Editor’s judgement, based on the lack of news references) is Bloomberg News’ exclusive on last week’s (12 May) meetings between Tunstall Group Ltd and its creditors over the company’s recent performance. According to Bloomberg’s sources, the meeting was called “after income plunged and management changed following a refinancing in September.” In a statement from Charterhouse that cleverly tap-danced past the reason for the meeting, “Tunstall continues to be a successful, profitable, cash-generating business and comparable to many other organizations, experiences short-term fluctuations in performance.” and “The group has been impacted by a number of factors including specific market factors and the continued strength of sterling against the major-trading currencies.” The business has also been hurt by delays in awarding major contracts, according to the statement.
From the Bloomberg article:
As Tunstall’s profits have declined, its ratio of debt to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization increased to 5.6 times as of March, from 4.7 times in September, the people said. The loan terms in the March test dictated that the leverage ratio shouldn’t exceed 6.3 times, they said.
Lenders are expecting the company to give a new profit forecast today for the 12 months to September 2014, according to the people. The company didn’t comment on earnings targets or leverage in its statement.
AND: Its 350 million pounds ($590 million) of loans dropped to as little as 77 pence on the pound, according to broker quotes, from 99 pence in September. (Ed. note: these loans are publicly traded and a lowered value is highly significant as to the debt quality.)
The outcome of the meeting is not yet known.
As our readers know, private equity firm Charterhouse Capital Partners LLP acquired Tunstall Group in 2008 from Bridgepoint Capital for £514 million (US$ 1 billion), funded in part with over £242 million in debt and with Bridgepoint and management retaining small shares (FT.com). The September 2013 refinancing was for £350 million ($590 million). This paints a picture of a highly leveraged company beholden to many beyond its owners and its contractors in local authorities and housing associations. Tunstall and Charterhouse also received negative publicity when the Guardian did an exposé on their use of the (wholly legal) ‘Quoted Eurobond Exemption’, where they pay loan interest at high rates to their parent companies through a mechanism via the Channel Islands Stock Exchange.
Management changes over the past six months have also rocked the top layers of the company. (more…)