Singapore Retail Investors to Vote on Distressed Shipper’s Fate

Singapore Retail Investors to Vote on Distressed Shipper’s Fate

January 31, 2021

Creditors to struggling Singapore shipperPacific International Lines Pte will vote Monday on a restructuring deal that involves a capital injection from a unit of Temasek Holdings Pte.

It’s an important day for investors who oppose the plan like Singapore businessman Kuah Ann Thia, an unsecured noteholder – the most vulnerable in the bond world. He and other individual investors hold parts of PIL’s S$60 million security ($45 million) that came due in November but which the shipper hasn’t repaid.

Kuah had initially felt relief last year when he heard that the Temasek unitwas providing a $600 million package comprising debt and equity to PIL. But he said he became worried when he saw the company’s restructuring plan. Under the so-called scheme of arrangement, it could be at least five years before unsecured noteholders saw actual cash payments, according topresentation materials.

In contrast, some secured lenders like banks could get payments for their claims subject to the company having sufficient excess cash. PILsaid in May last year it received an in-principle approval from a majority of its financial lenders, constituting 97.6% of the company’s total debt, for “a formalized standstill on enforcement actions” until a debt re-profiling pact is agreed on.

“For us to be left out until the very end should not be the way that things are done,” Kuah said.

Watch a Bloomberg Daybreak video on shipping industry outlooks in 2021

PIL told Bloomberg News it had been transparent and open to hearing from noteholders. It has held two informal meetings for the bondholders, and 16 small-group dialog sessions. It’s also attended to more than 100 emails and calls and hired a lawyer to give noteholders advice.

“We believe the comprehensive financing and restructuring plan presented in the scheme of arrangement represents the best path forward for all stakeholders,” the company said in an email. “PIL has received the support of a significant majority of creditors for the scheme, and is confident that the required approval thresholds can be met.”

Unhappy with the restructuring plan, Kuah protested to the Singapore courts. And earlier in January, a courtruled that the company classify all its fully unsecured creditors as a separate group in the Monday vote, potentially giving them power to block the deal. Under Singapore law,at least half the investors holding over 75% of value in each creditor class present for the vote must approve the deal for it to be successful, unless the court decides otherwise.

But blocking the deal won’t be easy: opponents would need to convince enough bondholders to vote against it, with some who may be worried that a canceled bailout would result in even worse terms. The shipping company has said cancellation would lead to them getting just 2 cents for every dollar in claims through a liquidation process. And the court could overrule the vote.

Still, it’s a sign that with global corporate defaults forecast topeak in coming months due to the economic slump caused by the pandemic, individual investors may become more vocal in seeking to be repaid. In Singapore’s case, the stakes for such investors have already been highlighted by the plight of over 34,000 mom and pop investors in Hyflux Ltd. still waiting to see if they will recover any money more than 2-1/2 years after the start of a court-supervised restructuring process.

Under the terms of PIL’s restructuring plan, each holder of unsecured notes would pick one of two options. Their claims will be replaced with perpetual securities that have no maturity date, and they could either get $1 of perps for every dollar of claim that would only start paying cash after six years, or they could receive $1 of perps for every $2 of claims that would start cash distribution after five years.

Apart from the bondholders, the voting class of unsecured creditors also includes six facility lenders: SC Lowy; Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp.; Chinatrust Commercial Bank Co.; KBC Bank NV; E.SUN Commercial Bank Ltd., Singapore Branch; and United Oversea Bank Ltd. They have claims totaling nearly $124 million, according to a Dec. 15 explanatory note that the company sent to all creditors seen by Bloomberg News.

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