Get buy-in from internal and external stakeholders as you guard against a COVID-19 liquidity crunch.
Every day seems to bring news of another multinational corporation drawing down some or all of a revolving credit facility to weather potential liquidity disruptions created by market reaction to the coronavirus outbreak. News reports say private equity firms like Blackstone are encouraging portfolio companies to tap credit lines.
- The companies recently tapping revolvers include Kraft Heinz, L Brands and Carnival.
NeuGroup Insights reached out to the treasurer of a company whose SEC filing announcing the drawdown of its revolver described the move as a precautionary measure to increase its cash position and “preserve financial flexibility” in light of current uncertainty in the global markets resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak.
- The form 8-K also said the proceeds are now on the company’s balance sheet and may be used for general corporate purposes.
Buy-in across the board. The treasurer said the decision to draw down on the revolver was agreed upon at the highest levels of the company. In addition to the reasons for acting now that are spelled out in the 8-K, the company wanted to avoid a situation where it could not access the full amount of the revolver, he said.
Proactive outreach. The treasurer said the company considered the perceptions of investors and the three credit rating agencies, in part because it wants to maintain its current ratings. The treasurer said the company is committed to transparency with the agencies and its banking partners and was proactive with each group. Its strong liquidity position and conservative financial policy—along with the reasons in the 8K—supported taking this prudent, precautionary move, he added.
Bottom line. In the end, a lot depends on what you do before announcing the decision to draw down a revolver. “It’s the matter of communicating with internal and external stakeholders to the extent you can,” the treasurer said. “You want to make sure they understand the intent and are not caught off guard.” And the common denominator in all these conversations and relationships, he said, are trust and transparency.
Legal stuff. Law firmsare offering recommendations and observations to corporates considering the drawdown of revolvers. The firm Fried Frank says borrowers should review their credit agreements for “force majeure” or similar provisions that might excuse a revolving lender’s obligation to lend in bad economic environments. But it adds that, typically, “committed facilities do not include such provisions.”
Here are some other takeaways, from White & Case:
- SEC 8-K filings typically disclose the amount of the borrowing, the interest rate, and the total cash available to the company after giving effect to the borrowing.
- Companies also include a short reason for the borrowing that may include, depending on the circumstances, that it is a precautionary measure to increase cash and preserve flexibility in light of uncertainties surrounding COVID-19 and the global economy.
- Companies provide a short summary of the terms of the relevant credit facility and a reference to the initial filing in which it was disclosed and attached as an exhibit.