Monday, May 08, 2017

Is A Financial Flu Contagious?

I received a long email from Walton International, the large land syndicator, describing its Canadian parent's restructuring.  I don't know Canadian bankruptcy terms, but it sounds like a Chapter 11 restructuring.  Walton offered many land deals in the United States, but its Canadian housing operations were always touted as the backbone of the organization.  Here is part of the email:
On April 28th, 2017 Walton International Group Inc. (“Walton Canada”), an entity organized in the province of Alberta Canada, and several other Canadian affiliates and Canadian development entities (collectively, the “Canadian Filing Entities”), announced that they have obtained an Initial Order from the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta (the “Canadian Court”) for creditor protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (“CCAA”). This filing in Canada (the “CCAA Proceeding”), allows Walton Canada to stabilize its affairs, with a goal of restructuring certain obligations and other attributes of the Canadian Filing Entities and Walton Canada emerging as quickly as possible as a more profitable operating company. The Canadian Filing Entities are wholly owned direct and indirect subsidiaries of Walton Global Investments, Ltd. (“Walton Global”), a parent company also organized in Alberta Canada, which is not a Canadian Filing Entity.

The relief requested by the Canadian Filing Entities was precipitated by the downturn in the Alberta economy. The primary driver of the poor economic situation in Alberta is the severe and sustained drop in energy prices that began in 2014. The resulting decrease in demand for Walton’s products in Canada and resulting liquidity and financial difficulties of certain development projects in Alberta has created this situation.
I have been trying to think of a situation where the financial problems of a sponsor have not impacted its funds, even though the funds are separate entities from the sponsor.  No example jumps to mind.  Walton goes to great lengths in its email to distinguish between its Canadian operations and entities and its American land funds, and this is correct.  One thing about Walton though, there was always lack of transparency on the other entities involved, besides the U.S. funds, on its U.S. land deals, so I would not be surprised to learn that U.S. investors own land near or adjacent to land owned by a Walton Canadian entity.

Walton has been sloooooow to sell its land deals, in large part, in my opinion, because the longer Walton owns the land the more of the up front reserved management fees it gets to keep (and believe me, Walton reserved years of fees).  With its Canadian financial problems, and a stack of prepaid, reserved fees in its U.S. land funds, do not look for Walton to start selling properties until its gets all those reserved fees.

Towards the end of the email Walton says, "While we know this information may cause concern, we ask for your patience in contacting Walton with further inquiries on the situation while we work through this restructuring."  Don't call us, we'll call you.  Comforting.

No comments: