Kill Phil…

Posted in LightSquared, Operators, Regulatory, Spectrum at 12:23 pm by timfarrar

So the latest LightSquared bankruptcy plan has finally been filed, in advance of a status conference planned for Monday. Though the plan provides alternative options depending on whether Ergen’s SPSO decides to support it, the plan grants SPSO an allowed claim of $900M (for an original investment of $700M) if it votes in favor. That’s less than the $1B allowed claim indicated back in July, suggesting that quite a bit has changed structurally in the last month in order to come up with a simple plan that should be approved by the judge. However, it shouldn’t be assumed that SPSO will object to this change, as the $100M decrease in SPSO’s allowed claim may be part of a deal under which Fortress drops the prospect of recovery on its LP Preferred Shares.

Under the new plan, the non-SPSO secured debtholders plus SPSO and MAST (which holds $300M+ of LightSquared Inc. loans) will now only receive a pro rata share of LightSquared’s new $1B Term Loan plus the equity in the company. In other words the $1B Term Loan will cover less than half of the allowed $2.3B-$2.4B in secured debt and interest, suggesting a preference for the company to be rather less indebted than previously planned. The debtholders (including potentially SPSO) will also back a new $500M working capital facility and SPSO will remain a non-voting participant in the capital structure.

This structure seems designed to ensure that the plan is easy for the judge to approve and Falcone is cut out, unless he can find the money to participate in an auction, where the minimum bid must be sufficient to pay the allowed claims in full in cash minus the new $1B Term Loan (though that and the working capital facility would also need to be refinanced). In other words, if Phil Falcone wants to retain control of LightSquared (or if anyone else wants to bid), then he would need to find $1.4B+ in cash plus a $1.5B debt facility just to participate in the auction. If there isn’t an auction, then Harbinger receives nothing whatsoever, even for its Inc. subordinated debt (Class 7), let alone its equity.

Moreover, the plan sets out as one condition that the plan proponents shall “promptly commence and prosecute a Harbinger Litigation Action” to “stay, bar, enjoin, preclude, or otherwise limit Harbinger and/or any of its Affiliates from asserting against the GPS Industry and/or the United States of America any claim or cause of action that is or directly affects any property of one or more of the Debtors’ Estates”. Prior to the Effective Date of the Plan, the company must have received a ruling from the bankruptcy court which grants this request.

As a result, there’s little reason for Phil to agree to any of this, and the prospect of Harbinger raising nearly $3B to participate in the auction seems pretty remote. However, if Harbinger doesn’t agree to the plan then it won’t receive any of the releases granted to other parties (including Ergen, if SPSO votes in favor of the plan). So any LightSquared investors who’ve lost money would potentially then follow the strategy set out by SPSO earlier this year and sue Falcone personally. In fact, even if Harbinger continues to sue the US government for its own losses (if it is even possible to separate those from claims that would belong to LightSquared itself) then LightSquared investors could seek to claim any proceeds from that effort.

Now we have to see whether Ergen (or perhaps EchoStar or even DISH) wants to bid for all of LightSquared (which seems unlikely assuming he agrees with the current plan), or whether Falcone is able to find backers to participate. It seems less likely that the other Ad Hoc debtholders would bid in the auction, because those existing debtholders that do want to exit (presumably including MAST) can and probably will sell their claims to the holders like Fortress who want to remain in the capital structure. Given the implausibility of anyone backing Harbinger with $3B of new money to refinance LightSquared while Falcone is suing the FCC, undoubtedly there will be plenty of fireworks over the next few weeks as Phil seeks to avoid what looks like his inevitable doom.