Ashton Woods USA has managed to pull off a three-pronged restructuring of its debt, a feat that has eluded other builders in the credit-constricted downturn.
The Atlanta-based company, which was in default under some of its credit agreements before the restructuring, successfully negotiated a swap of all $125 million of its senior subordinated notes that carried a 9.5% interest rate and were due in 2015 for 11% senior subordinated notes due the same year but that carry no interest charges for the first three years. The pot for the note holders was also sweetened by giving them Class B interest in the company equaling 19.728% of the company's equity.
In addition, Ashton Woods amended its senior credit facility to provide as much as $95 million in borrowing capacity.
The restructuring also included the infusion of $20 million by the company's original owners.
Jerry Patava, the acting CFO of Ashton Woods and CEO of Canadian-based Great Gulf Group, parent company of Ashton Woods, said the company started renegotiating its debt a year ago.
"We knew obviously the marketplace was deteriorating at the beginning of 2008, so we had done a lot of preparatory work, forecasts, projections, re-modeling because we knew that we would be in discussion with our banks and bond holders," Patava said. "We hired some fairly robust advisors so we had a fairly targeted approach."
Discussions with the company's bond holders were "full and frank," Patava said. And, in the end, they decided Ashton Woods was the best place to keep their investments. "That an investment in Ashton was much better than the alternatives, than unwinding the company or throwing the company into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Our goal was and is not to go there," he said.
The restructuring should not only give the company the financial wherewithal to survive, but also perhaps the chance to seize opportunities in the downturn, Patava said.
"We did not do this to stand still," he said. "We will move forward. It is a good new start for the company, and we are quite excited. We do think Ashton Woods will be well positioned."