Unstructured Finance

Good news for some: bankruptcies head to record year

mall2This week’s mega-bankruptcies by mall operator General Growth Properties and Canadian newsprint company AbitibiBowater, have put 2009 well on its way to being the worst ever for filings, according to a report released Thursday by research firm BankruptcyData.com.

General Growth had pre-bankruptcy assets of $29.6 billion, overtaking chemical maker Lyondell Chemical as the biggest bankruptcy of the year so far. While far behind, AbitibiBowater is no slouch, with $10 billion.

According to BankruptcyData.com, these new entrants in the bankruptcy sweepstakes bring to 79 the number of bankruptcies by public companies this year, with total assets of $145 billion, 69 percent ahead of the pace of 2002, the worst year ever. Measured by the number of filings, 2009 is on pace to best 2001′s record bloodbath of 263 bankruptcies in a year, according to BankruptcyData.com.

Absent significant M&A and IPO activity (don’t believe the hype about the return of IPOs- despite a handful of recent IPOs, dollar volume is still 93 percent below where it was a year ago, even excluding Visa’s massive IPO, according to Thomson Reuters data), this isn’t entirely bad news for some: bankruptcies can provide a fees lifeline to lawyers and bankers (well, restructuring bankers at least.)

And the bonanza could get even bigger if and when General Motors files for Chapter 11.
(PHOTO: Reuters/Lucas Jackson)

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.”