Managing Creditor Risk through Inter-Creditor Agreements

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James is the CEO of  HOC Global Logistics, a company which provides shipping solutions to large organisations. Having become tired of leasing cargo ships from large vessel owners, the company desires to purchase its own ships which they can use and also lease to 3rd parties. James approaches Lakeside Bank for a Term Loan to finance the $50 million transaction.

The Bank after reviewing the loan proposal filed by HOC Logistics, informed James that the transaction was larger than Lakeside bank could comfortable handle. However they are able to loan him $20 million on the security of the purchased ship. James accepts the terms and applies for loans from Cityscape Capital Ltd , HSCB, Shanghai Bank  and Union Finance Ltd. The individual loans have different terms, interest rates and security interests. The complexity of the transaction is so mind boggling that James sets up an appointment with his Lawyers to advise him on how to manage the relationships between the multiple creditors in such a manner as to enable the company satisfy all its loan liabilities. He is advised to structure and negotiate an intercreditor agreement among the several creditors, thereby ensuring he has a more convenient financing process.

An intercreditoragreement seeks to govern the relationship between a range of creditors providing finance to the same borrower. An intercreditor agreement entered into by senior and junior creditors can be expected to rank the senior and junior security, subordinate the debt of the junior creditors to that of the senior creditors, restrict the junior creditors’ rights of enforcement for a specified standstill period and impose payment freezes on the junior debt in prescribed default situations.

In highly leveraged transactions such as leveraged buyouts and certain acquisition finance transactions, funding may be structured into a number of different tranches of lenders who stipulate slightly different lending terms and interest rates for the funds they advance. Senior lenders and mezzanine lenders usually take security over the assets of the borrower, over shares acquired and over the target group’s assets. In addition, guarantees will be given by the borrower and may also be given by the target group.

The senior creditors tend to have a stronger negotiating position than do the junior creditors, so it is usual practice for the senior bank lenders and mezzanine lenders to appoint a single security agent (or security trustee) to hold the security package on trust for the benefit of all the secured creditors. The intercreditor agreement contains provisions dealing with enforcement of the security, usually requiring the junior creditors (the mezzanine lenders) to desist from enforcement for the standstill period so as to leave the way clear for the senior creditors (the senior lenders and any hedge counterparties) to instruct the security agent as to when and how to enforce their right to the secured assets.

 

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