Doom and glee in bankruptcy
Top-class bankruptcy lawyers, vulture investors and credit experts revealed a range of emotions at a bankruptcy conference on Thursday, from doom and gloom to subdued confidence, but some comments bordered on outright glee.
Reflecting on the prospects for distressed investing opportunities this year, Michael Psaros, managing partner at KPS Capital Partners, was blunt.
“We are going to invest an awful lot of money this year,” Psaros said, during a Dow Jones restructuring and turnaround conference in New York. “We’re just very excited about this year and next.”
KPS Capital, which manages special situations funds and private equity funds with capital exceeding $1.8 billion, is ramping up its investments, he said.
Asked whether investors should weigh creditor interests, shareholders’ concerns, company stakeholder views or even the interests of the country, Eric Zinterhofer, senior partner with Apollo Management, said distressed debt investors will pursue a strategy based on the best “dispassionate distribution of capital” in making their investment decisions.
Various experts said distressed opportunities may last between three to five years, as the U.S. recession continues to grip consumers and companies amid tight lending conditions.
Daniel Loeb, chief executive officer of Third Point LLC, an investment adviser with about $4 billion of assets under management, told participants we’re at the “bottom of first inning” in the crisis. That means for bankruptcy lawyers, “you’re probably not going to see your family much.”
But where are the best investing opportunities? Most investors declined to tip their hands, but Loeb offered one industry to avoid.
“Gambling may be the world’s second oldest profession and people seem to really like to do it,” he said, eliciting laughter from the crowd of about 180 finance and legal professionals. “No matter how bad of a blackjack addict you are, it seems lower on the list than food and paying your electric bill.”
“We’ve been staying away from the gaming sector because it’s not going to be an early recoverer,” he said.
One sector they are studying? The auto industry and any opportunities with General Motors, GMAC and other carmakers that are getting support through the government’s Term-Asset Backed Securities Loan Facility, known as TALF.
“If the government is going to be giving away money, it’s our fiduciary responsibility to take it on behalf of our investors,” he told Reuters in a separate interview.