Mystery silence at erickson Inc. ends with bankruptcy filing

Mystery silence at erickson Inc. ends with bankruptcy filing

10 November 2016

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USA —   Portland aviation company Erickson Inc., unable to handle the giant load of debt piled on it by its private equity owner, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy late Tuesday.

Erickson described the bankruptcy as “consensual” and said it was going forward with a reorganization plan supported by its major creditors. The plan will “dramatically reduce its total indebtedness,” and preserve the company’s 700 jobs, the company promised.

“The combination of a leveraged balanced sheet and deteriorating market for the services they provide proved too much for the company,” said Patrick Mohan, senior distressed debt analyst at Reorg Research, a financial industry trade publication that reported the company’s default.

Erickson said in a written statement it expects to exit bankruptcy and resume normal operations in 2017. The company declined interview requests as it has since it defaulted on its quarterly debt payment on Nov. 1.

Three hundred of the company’s 700 employees work at the Portland headquarters or at a major operations center in Southern Oregon. It filed the bankruptcy in Dallas, Texas.

Bankruptcy documents indicate that certain of its creditors have tentatively agreed to extend $60 million in financing to Erickson.

Company officials said the value of Erickson’s existing stock depends on the reorganization plan approved by the court. But in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Erickson said it “expects that its currently outstanding stock has no value.”

The company announced last week that Quinn Morgan, its former chairman and controlling shareholder, had quit the board. Private equity companies controlled by Morgan bought Erickson in 2007 and took the company public in 2012. It borrowed $355 million in 2013 in large part to buy the helicopter affiliate of McMinnville-based Evergreen International.

The bankruptcy is another private equity disaster for Southern Oregon.

After Morgan’s investment firm took control, Erickson moved its executive staff out of Medford in favor of Portland. It’s resulting struggles under a heavy debt load offers an eerie parallel to Harry and David, the mail-order gift company best known for its fruit baskets.

Wall Street investor Wasserstein Co. bought the gift company in 2004. At Wasserstein’s direction, the company’s long-term debt soared from zero to $245 million. Harry and David sent $84 million of the cash straight back to Wasserstein and its partners to cover their acquisition costs.

Just like Erickson, Harry and David struggled under the debt load and filed for bankruptcy in 2011.

As for Erickson, the bankruptcy was not the only bad news it revealed Wednesday. It also divulged that its 2014 and 2015 financial statements are inaccurate. Erickson did not disclose that certain of its leased aircraft were not airworthy and did not reflect the likely cost of repairs in its financial statements.

Thomas Rorick, an analyst with Debtwire Research, predicted the company will successfully shed the debt that was weighing it down. “I do think they will probably emerge healthier than when they went in, that’s the whole point of the bankruptcy.”

Government has urged Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers who are deployed to guard Viphya Plantation against destruction to be vigilant by dealing with the perpetrators accordingly.Msaka (left) walking in the plantantion

Msaka (left) walking in the plantantion

Minister of Mines, Energy and Natural Resources, Bright Msaka, made the statement Tuesday after touring the plantation, especially areas under the jurisdiction of Total Land Care and Raiply Malawi Limited.

Incidences of fire destroying numerous hectares of trees every year have been a never-ending song for the Viphya Plantation for over a decade now. The plantation is shared by two districts of Mzimba andNkhata Bay.

However, the issue has raged on in spite of efforts by government and its stakeholders to plant trees and guard them against destruction. Reports have indicated that more often, the fires that destroy the plantation are deliberately set rather than accidental.

The minister said government is aware that some disgruntled workers and individuals whose licences were cancelled are the ones setting fires in the plantation.

“People need to know that this is a national asset, so if the department of forestry has denied somebody a licence for the reasons best known by the department, they are supposed to understand instead of setting fires,” he said.

To mitigate the challenge, Msaka said government deployed MDF soldiers in protected forests across the country as a way of scaring people from destroying the plantations.

In spite of the effort, some people are still setting parts of the Viphya Forest on fire, regardless of the size of trees.

“We have directed the Malawi Defence Force solders to deal with anyone setting bush fires and operating in the forest without licences and that the law will take its course [against them],” he warned.

However, Msaka commended Raiply Malawi Limited and Total Land Care for utilizing the forest sustainably and adding value to the trees from the forest.

“In the past, we have been cutting trees or sawing and selling them abroad at a very cheap price. We behaved like a prodigal son who squandered all what his father gave him.

“We need to be very careful and be proud of what we inherited so that we can benefit from it and pass on those benefits to the next generation,” advised the minister.

Earlier, Chief Executive Officer of Raiply Malawi Limited, Thomas Oomen, cited bush fires and encroachment as major challenges facing his company.

“This year alone, we have lost about 526 hectares [of trees] to bush fires, unfortunately, most of  these trees are below 15 years old but they are supposed to be harvested at the age of 25. This is dooming our future,” said Oomen.

Chikangawa Forest consists of seven plantations comprising 53,000 hectares.

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