Senior lenders of Pacific Drilling are keeping up their pressure on the company to reorganize sooner rather than later, objecting to the company’s requested 120-day extension of its exclusive periods to file and solicit acceptance to a reorganization plan, despite the company’s offer to agree to mediation in the Chapter 11 case in exchange for the extension.
The battle over exclusivity evidences the continuing breakdown of trust between the parties in the case, at least insofar as the senior lenders are concerned. Lenders have maintained since the case was filed that the company was merely seeking to delay the case and was not acting in good faith to develop a reorganization plan.
The company’s secured lenders late last month sought to force the company into mediation, but the company argued that mediation would be premature at this relatively early stage of the case, and the bankruptcy court overseeing the case denied the secured noteholders’ motion.
In connection with its requested exclusivity extension filed late last month the company said it would now be willing to engage in mediation with secured lenders, provided, among other things, that the senior creditors agreed to the exclusivity extension.
But senior noteholders would not bite, suggesting that the company’s offer to engage in mediation was insincere.
In a March 14 objection to the proposed exclusivity extension, an ad hoc group of secured noteholders noted that while the company “promised serious plan negotiations beginning in January,” it was not until the filing of its exclusivity motion last week that the company agreed to a mediation process.
“If past is prologue,” the ad hoc group asserted, “the debtors have not—and thus will not—show diligence, and extending exclusivity will not advance the cases.”
Beyond rejecting the company’s mediation offer, the ad hoc group charged that the company had “squandered” its first four months in Chapter 11 and “cannot point to any progress [it has] made to show cause to extend exclusivity.”
The ad hoc noteholder group further said, “What makes this failure even more egregious is the comparative simplicity of the task at hand: a balance sheet restructuring to be negotiated among well-organized creditor groups with experienced counsel.”
The company argued in its exclusivity extension motion last week that “after a contentious start to the Chapter 11,” it has “been working hard to jump-start meaningful restructuring negotiations.” The company also asserted that “a lot has been going on in these cases, mostly out of court,” citing numerous telephone conversations and face-to-face meetings with creditors, its development of a business plan, and its efforts to resolve various contingencies, including an arbitration case in London that could add $350 million to the company’s unrestricted cash and eliminate a $336 million unsecured claim against the company.
But the ad hoc noteholder group was not buying that, either.
“It was not until months after the cases were filed, and as their 120-day exclusivity period drew to a close,” the group said in its objection, “that the debtors even retained experts and began to put together a business plan.”
Wilmington Trust, the agent bank under the company’s senior secured credit facility, made a similar argument, reiterating its concern that the company and its equity sponsor, Quantum Pacific, were simply seeking to delay the case in the hope that changing market conditions would ultimately create value for an equity recovery in the case.
Meanwhile, lenders under the company’s prepetition revolver and Citibank, the agent under the company’s RCF, did not formally object to the extension, since doing so would, under the cash collateral orders entered in the case, endanger adequate protection payments to RCF lenders.
Still, Citibank said in its response to the motion, “The [bankruptcy] court … should be under no illusion that the agent supports the debtors’ request to extend their exclusive periods within which to file, and solicit acceptances on, a plan of reorganization.”
Similarly, an ad hoc panel of RCF lenders said in a court filing, “The absence of an objection to the motion should not be construed as affirmative support for an extension of exclusivity and that the RCF group has concerns regarding the progress of these cases.”
A hearing on the exclusivity extension is set for March 21. — Alan Zimmerman
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