Coronavirus: US Companies Already Facing Bankruptcy

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A growing number of companies will file for bankruptcies in 2020 as businesses remain shuttered due to the coronavirus.

Airlines, retail stores and restaurants are among some of the industries heavily impacted. Many of these depended on foot traffic from travelers and workers as well as last-minute shoppers. While some of these businesses were able to pivot to online sales and deliveries as states mandated shutdowns, others reported revenue dropped drastically as 26 million Americans filed for unemployment.

High debt levels coupled with a large decline in consumer confidence and disposable income and the continued shutdown of a broad swath of businesses will result in more bankruptcies.

“We’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg of bankruptcies to come,” said James Gellert, CEO of RapidRatings, a New York-based software company that analyzes the risk of public and private companies. “We’re going to see default and bankruptcy rates climb as the combination of the COVID-19 crisis, energy crisis and historically high corporate leverage converge into unprecedented volatility and destabilization.”

Some companies will not survive despite the stimulus funds and will fold before the end of 2020.

“Companies are going to fail in waves,” he said. “The survivors will fit into two camps: those that can rebound or grow despite the crisis and those that are unable to recover and ultimately fail despite surviving the most immediate impact.”

Companies That Could File for Bankruptcy Protection

Nearly every company in every industry will be affected, based on stress tests with conditions such as a 15% reduction in revenue, adjustments in GDP, industrial production, CPI, unemployment and the S&P 500 to mirror the worst of the 2008 global financial crisis, Gellert said.

The retail, forest products, metals and fabrication, consumer products and transportation industries will undergo the biggest financial health hit.

In the retail industry, the stress test suggests that without material action or intervention, Nordstrom  (JWN) –  Kroger  (KR) , Children’s Place  (PLCE) –  Best Buy  (BBY) – and Lowe’s  (LOW) – will incur the most additional risk as a result of this downturn, he said.

The transportation sector faces many challenges and airline companies like Asiana, Avianca and Aeromexico “see an extremely bleak outlook with high probabilities of default,” Gellert said. “Ultimately, all companies who entered this crisis with weak or declining financial health, high leverage, and weak liquidity positions will bear the most risk of bankruptcy.”

Some other companies that could seek bankruptcy protection are J.C. Penney  (JCP) – and all of the movie chains and the smaller gaming companies, if they don’t get access to federal help, said Nancy Rapoport, a professor of law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas who focuses on bankruptcy, business ethics, and corporate governance.

There is “a lot of talk regarding the following companies – AMC Theatres  (AMC) , Neiman Marcus, pretty much all department stores are at risk, 24 Hour Fitness, J. Crew and Rite Aid  (RAD), said Eric Horn, bankruptcy attorney at A.Y. Strauss in Roseland, New Jersey.

The courts are likely gearing up for an uptick in both consumer and commercial bankruptcy filings.

“Lenders have taken a step back for the time being and are essentially waiting for the stores to reopen,” he said. “At that juncture, they will be able to get a better sense as to the liquidation value of the collateral. The timing of store reopenings will certainly be a driver as to liquidation value. Inventory values will be critical to determining the bankruptcy timing and options.”

After the lockdown measures are lifted and stores and other industries reopen, lenders may push companies into bankruptcy, Horn said.

“There have been other times in the past when bankruptcy courts were flooded with a major increase in Chapter 11 filings,” he said.

Bankruptcy courts have utilized telephonic and video hearings and communications in the past. The majority of all bankruptcy cases are filed electronically.

Chapter 11 bankruptcies allow companies to reorganize and reduce their debt levels while smaller companies may be forced to opt for Chapter 7 which liquidates a company’s assets to pay off creditors and unsecured debt is sold off.

“Traditional Chapter 11 proceedings have often been too expensive for many small businesses, leaving Chapter 7 as the only viable option,” said Michael Weiner, a partner at Slate Law Group in San Diego.

Commercial real estate owners have received letters from their clients citing force majeure clauses and not paying lease or rent payments, so “we are worried about commercial real estate and commercial real estate REIT-structured companies,” said Tim Gilligan, a CFA and financial advisor for Wick Capital Partners in Philadelphia.

“We’re more concerned about non-publicly traded companies, the small businesses that make up the heart of this economy, the very companies where most have not been fortunate to access stimulus funds through the PPP program” he said. “We’re not as worried about the publicly traded companies. We are more worried about the life blood of the U.S. economy , the small business owner and employee.”

Companies That Have Filed for Bankruptcy Protection

Here is a list of companies that have filed for bankruptcy protection, including ones that filed earlier in 2020 before the impact of COVID-19:

1. The Schurman Retail Group (owns Papyrus, stationary store, began closing in January)

2. Lucky’s Market (grocery stores)

3. Earth Fare (organic grocery stores)

4. Pier 1 Imports (home goods stores)

5. Art Van Furniture

6. Modell’s Sporting Goods

7. FoodFirst Global Restaurants (parent company of Brio Italian Mediterranean and Bravo Fresh Italian restaurant chains)

8. True Religion (previously filed for bankruptcy in 2017)

9. Bridgemark (energy company)

10. Southland Royalty Company (energy company)

11. Dalf Energy (energy company)

12. Sheridan Holding Company (energy company)

13. Echo Energy Partners I (energy company)

14. Whiting Petroleum Company  (WLL)

Companies That Could File for Bankruptcy in 2020 or 2021

1. Neiman Marcus

2. Nordstrom

3. Kroger

4. Children’s Place

5. Best Buy

6. Lowe’s

7. J.C. Penney

8. AMC Theatres

9. Asiana

10. Avianca

11. Aeromexico


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