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Defaults in European Retailers and US Energy on the rise

Defaults in European Retailers and US Energy on the rise

2019 has been a pleasant ride so far for high yield investors. Over the past 9 months the global high yield market has delivered a total return of 10.9% and an excess return of 6.4%, in part thanks to the U-turn of major central banks. Despite all the good news, things have occasionally gone wrong.

Recent events have reminded high yield investors that investing doesn’t come without risk. Thomas Cook, the UK tour operator, was grounded after final restructuring negotiations failed. To blame Brexit or the slowdown in global growth for the default would be a hasty conclusion. The business, operating in a structurally challenged industry, had long stretched its financials to the limits. The fragile situation did not go unnoticed by customers, who had stopped booking with the business. As a result of this, 2018 EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) dropped by 14.6% year-on-year which also changed the ability to materially generate positive cash flow. The company produced a negative free cash flow of £148 million in 2018. 2019 half year numbers revealed an even worse picture, with a seasonal outflow of £839 million; £121 million higher than the previous year. Operating with current liabilities that exceeded current assets by £2bn, made the solvency issue even more pressing and, in the end, didn’t allow the company to recover in time. This is a prime example of how quickly things can fall apart if consumers lose trust in a business. With bonds trading currently at 7 cents in the euro, investors only foresee a limited recovery rate for the asset-light business, which is also carrying a large amount of debt structurally senior
to the bonds.

High Yield defaults by Issuer

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