I posted on the dangers of our current debt market earlier this week. Below is an look at a deal happening this week that demonstrates my hypothesis. Again, I am trying to avoid city-jargon that is used to hide the truth from the uninitiated.
The Times today reports on Cinven's buy-out of the remaining part of Gondola Holdings, the owner of high street pizza express.
As you may well know, Pizza Express is a good company, their restaurants and full and had been expanding rapidly until a year or two ago.
Then Private Equity became involved. TDR and Capricorn loaded the company with debt and paid themselves dividends; then they refloated the company last year to raise more money and profit for themselves (to the tune of £135 million).
Looking at the most recent report (http://www.gondolaholdings.co.uk/uploads/File/File/Gondola_Report.pdf), you can see the company making a loss on turnover of £200 million odd. Openings are down from 20 last year to 14 this year - I wonder why?
Why? The company can't pay its debts and so having made a fast buck TDR and Capricorn are out of there. Cinven to the rescue; but whooa, the Times article says Cinven is paying £900 million with £350 million in debt finance. This won't help to turn the company around. How long before they start closing 'under-performing' sites.
Even the analyst in the Times interview admits to the situation. albeit in city-speak to hide the truth:
"The high level of borrowings acts as a straitjacket on the debt side, while the 48 per cent stake held by TDR and CVI acts as a straitjacket on the equity side, preventing Gondola from doing a rights issue. Until it resolves that situation, its growth prospects will be pedestrian."
A rights issue (more money from shareholders) when the company floated a year ago (huge investment by shareholders and influx of new money).
All this financial shenanigans is playing with this company to no economic purpose. The group needs to grow and needs investment and good management (which it may or may not have). How is having £350 million of debt going to help, say at an interest rate of 7% and that £25 million a year, or over 10% of income spent just paying the interest, let alone the capital on the debt. Where will the investment in pensions or new product come from? Not surprising the company has lost £4 million this year!
these deals happen daily - look at where you work and see if it affects yourself and potentially your company!