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Catalyst Paper defers US$21M interest payment amid debt restructuring talks

The Richmond, B.C.,-based company said the payment applies to its senior secured 2016 notes.
Catalyst (TSX:CTL) announced in June that it was reviewing its capital structure, with a key priority to reduce debt in the current business and economic climate.
"This is a very complex process and while we cannot prejudge outcomes, we are firmly committed to achieving a solution that puts Catalyst on stronger financial footing for the future," stated CEO Kevin Clarke.
The paper producer said its operations and those of its subsidiaries should continue as usual with obligations to customers, suppliers and employees being met.
Catalyst has 30 days to pay the interest before triggering default on its corporate debt.
Failure to pay would allow noteholders to immediately declare the US$390 million principal and accrued interest "due and payable" and to begin efforts to go after the assets that back up the notes.
Default could also be declared under its credit facility with JP Morgan on US$250 million senior 2014 notes if the amount isn't paid after another 30 days. Catalyst owed $16 million in principal under this asset-backed corporate debt as of Nov. 30.
Paul Quinn of RBC Capital Markets said it's well-recognized that the company has too much debt.
"They are assessing options while talking to their creditors. Bankruptcy is one option," he said in an email.
Moody's Investors Service downgraded Catalyst's ratings for corporate family, senior secured notes and senior unsecured notes on Thursday.
It also put the ratings on review for further downgrade and said its speculative grade liquidity rating remained unchanged.
The service said the downgrades reflected the interest payment deferral, weak liquidity and significant debt.
"Catalyst's capital structure is unsustainable and that material losses are likely in a restructuring scenario," it said in a news release.
Moody's expects the company will continue to face challenging industry conditions for some of its paper products. Newsprint and directory paper continue to face secular demand declines.
Last month the company reported it lost $205.7 million in the third quarter on a $151-million impairment charge on the Snowflake recycled newsprint mill in northeastern Arizona.
Sales rose to $340.3 million from $322.3 million.
Mike Richmond, an analyst with Salman Partners, has a sell rating on Catalyst shares.
"We continue to think that the company's balance sheet is over-levered and we expect that a dilutive equity financing will be necessary to address its unbalanced capitalization," he wrote in a report in November.
Continued weak print advertising resulted in another quarter of declining year-over-year demand for both coated and uncoated specialty grades of paper, although there was a "modest price improvement" for specialty grades and previously announced price increases were partially implemented.
Directory and newsprint demand were also down from the same quarter a year ago and the average North American benchmark price for newsprint was down slightly from the second quarter.
The company manufactures diverse specialty printing papers, newsprint and pulp. Its customers include retailers, publishers and commercial printers in North America, Latin America, the Pacific Rim and Europe.
It has four mills located in British Columbia and Arizona with a combined annual production capacity of 1.9 million tonnes.


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