The main holdout against mall owner PREIT’s plan to restructure its debt burden has dropped its objection to the proposal, opening a likely path for the deal’s approval.
Strategic Value Partners, an investment firm that specializes in distressed debt, said in a filing late last week with U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington that it would not oppose the plan, which frees up as much as $150 million in new borrowing by PREIT and gives the company more time to pay back its existing loans.
Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, as PREIT is formally known, is scheduled to ask Judge Karen B. Owens to approve the proposal at a hearing on Nov. 30.
The hearing had been originally set for this week, but was postponed so that paperwork could be completed.
“PREIT looks forward to the upcoming hearing to approve its financial restructuring plan, which will provide the company with additional capital to support our operations and the continued execution of strategic priorities,” said Heather Crowell, a PREIT vice president.
Shares of the Philadelphia-based company closed Wednesday at $1.11, up 122% from their close on Oct. 30, the last trading day before the company’s bankruptcy filing. The Russell 3000 Index, which counts PREIT as a member, rose 12% over that time.
PREIT is the biggest mall owner in Philadelphia and its surrounding counties, with properties that include Fashion District Philadelphia in Center City and the Cherry Hill Mall.
It and other mall landlords had been rapidly losing retail-market share to e-commerce sites such as Amazon when the coronavirus hit, devastating their already suffering businesses.
The company said last month that it was working to bring all of its creditors into agreement on its restructuring plan, which it hoped would buy it time to rejuvenate business by replacing little-trafficked sections of its malls with other uses, such as apartments, health clinics, and warehouses.
By the start of this month, it had persuaded all of its lenders except SVP to embrace the plan, which turns currently unencumbered PREIT assets into collateral for its lenders in exchange for the debt relief.
Greenwich, Conn.-based SVP, which had reportedly bought its 5% of PREIT’s debt only weeks earlier, argued that the proposal shortchanged creditors.
Lacking the support of all its lenders, PREIT filed its Chapter 11 petition on Nov. 1 with the hope of having the plan confirmed by a bankruptcy court judge.
With SVP now dropping its objection, however, there appear to be no impediments to its court approval, said lawyer Stephen Selbst, who specializes in restructuring and finance law at Herrick, Feinstein LLP in New York.
In exchange for its concession, SVP appears to have extracted commitments that more of PREIT’s financial data would be shared with creditors, said Ted Gavin, managing director of bankruptcy consulting firm Gavin/Solmonese in Wilmington.
“SVP has gotten what it was going to get, and has caved,” he said. “It’s pretty clear that what they were looking for was more communication.”
The terms under which SVP agreed to the restructuring deal also call for it to be reimbursed as much as $1.2 million in legal and financial-advisor fees “related to negotiations and litigation,” according to its filing.
An SVP spokesperson declined to comment on its decision to support the proposal.