Ravn Air Group, Inc. – Creditors’ Committee Accuses Lender BNP Paribas of Using Chapter 11 to Enrich Itself at the Expense of Debtors, Debtors’ Stakeholders and Alaskans

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April 24, 2020 – The Debtors' Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors (the “Committee”) objected to the Debtors’ motion for authorization to access debtor-in-possession (“DIP”) financing from their prepetition lenders (BNP Paribas), arguing that the proposed financing is insufficient, its fees onerous and its milestones too short to allow for a sales process or to possibly benefit from stimulus funding; in sum, that it "does not provide sufficient runway for a restructuring" [Docket No. 98].

The Committee also reminds the Court of the Debtors' critical role to the State of Alaska as its largest airline, arguing that the DIP lender is using its position to keep the Debtors grounded and to "jam through the restructuring at lightning speed" in furtherance of its own financial objectives, using the Chapter 11 process to "enrich themselves, while Ravn’s communities are sorting through immediate, serious problems such as not being able to reach hospitals and other critical help, as they wait for the Company to resume services."

In an interim April 7th DIP financing order, Court the hearing the Ravn Air Group cases has already granted the Debtors authority to access $6.0mn of what is in total a $12.0mn DIP facility; with the $6.0mn balance to be made available upon issuance of a final DIP order. Also on issuance of a final order, the Debtors will have authority to roll-up of $24.0mn of pre-petition debt upon issuance of a final DIP financing order. 

The objection [Docket No. 98] states, “The extraordinary COVID-19 crisis and the unprecedented recession that it triggered tipped these Debtors into the Chapter 11 Cases during the time that ordinarily would have been their most revenue-generating business cycle….Given the pervasive uncertainty over the length of the crisis and timing of any forthcoming government relief, the Debtors have found themselves and their ability to continue providing essential services entirely at the mercy of their Prepetition (and now DIP) Lenders. The Pre-petition Lenders, however, chose to ignore the fact that the Debtors could have continued operating and providing critical services to many communities in this dire time of need and instead, took advantage of the predicament to enhance their investment and priority position through the Chapter 11 process at the expense of other creditors. 

The DIP Facility has but one purpose – jam through the restructuring at lightning speed by imposing egregious milestones to get the Prepetition Lenders paid in full in cash in a matter of days, while providing them with additional returns through multiple fees and generous interest rates under the DIP Facility. These fees and rates are especially onerous given that nearly a third of the Prepetition Lenders’ loans are being rolled up into post-petition debt, two dollars to one. The $24 million roll-up component is actually four times the amount irrevocably committed by the DIP Lenders: while the DIP Facility provides for a possibility of an additional $6 million delayed draw on top of the approved $6 million interim borrowing, that amount would only be available after the entry of the Final Order and the filing of an ‘Acceptable Plan,’ that is, a chapter 11 plan that either pays the DIP and Prepetition Lenders in full in cash or is otherwise completely acceptable to them in all respects. The delayed draw is also subject to satisfaction of other unspecified terms and conditions acceptable to the DIP Agent and the Requisite DIP Lenders. While the Interim Order provides for an additional $2 million incremental facility after the entry of the Final Order, that amount is only available in the sole and absolute discretion of the DIP Lenders. (Interim Order, § 7(b)). In sum, the Debtors got a very expensive $6 million advance (less than a quarter of the full DIP amount) that does not provide sufficient runway for a restructuring. It is difficult to understand what the DIP Facility achieves, beyond providing the Prepetition Lenders with enhancements unavailable through a state foreclosure process.

In addition to enhancing their collateral position through the roll-up to the detriment of unsecured creditors, the Prepetition/DIP Lenders have also imposed ‘prepackaged’ plan-type milestones in these Chapter 11 Cases that are guaranteed to push the Debtors towards a fire sale or disorderly liquidation. Specifically, the proposed milestones require the Debtors to file the disclosure statement and Acceptable Plan on April 25, before the second day hearing in these Chapter 11 Cases; obtain approval of the disclosure statement within 48 days; and confirm the Acceptable Plan within 76 days of the Petition Date. The Debtors will simply not have enough time to consider any restructuring alternatives (other than the Acceptable Plan that pays the Prepetition/DIP Lenders in full in cash) and all available sources of exit financing by April 25. Such a compressed artificial timeline will not allow the Debtors to fully explore and receive government aid or other funding in order to implement a value-maximizing restructuring. Even in the case of a sale, there will not be sufficient time to market the Company, to understand the appropriate type of purchaser, and ensure that the sale will bring on appropriate equity value for the assets. Moreover, these milestones completely disable the Committee functions and prevent and discourage any input, investigation or objections by any party in interest. The DIP Facility should assist the Debtors in building a bridge to emergence, not, as it does here, limit due process and circumvent the protections of the Bankruptcy Code for the sole interest of the Prepetition Lenders.

Given the Company’s significant footprint in Alaska and in light of potentially forthcoming government relief that would enable it to resume operations and re-hire its 1,300 employees, the Debtors simply need more time to put a proper plan in place. Unfortunately, through this DIP Facility, the Debtors have ceded control of these Chapter 11 Cases to their Prepetition Lenders. If approved as proposed, the DIP Facility will have the effect of foreclosing any objection or investigation by the Committee or any other party to an ‘Acceptable Plan.’ Such a process runs afoul of the bankruptcy protections for disclosure and confirmation. Furthermore, it is not in the best interest of creditors (aside from the Prepetition Lenders) to force a fait accompli process in a quickly changing environment with significant impacts on Alaskan communities, 1,300 employees, and all other creditors and contract parties.

The Prepetition Lenders could have exercised their state law rights and remedies and foreclosed on their collateral, but instead elected to take advantage of the bankruptcy process. They must ‘pay the freight’ of that choice. This Court should not allow the Prepetition/DIP Lenders to use the Chapter 11 process to enrich themselves, while Ravn’s communities are sorting through immediate, serious problems such as not being able to reach hospitals and other critical help, as they wait for the Company to resume services.”

Prepetition Debt

Ravn Air Group, Inc. is party to a July 2015 credit agreement (the “Credit Agreement”), with certain lenders (collectively, the “Prepetition Secured Lenders”) and BNP Paribas, as administrative agent, comprised of a $95.0mn term loan and a $15.0mn revolving loan. As of March 31, 2020, the Debtors owed approximately $90.9mn, exclusive of interest and fees, under the Credit Agreement.

About the Debtors

Ravn Air Group was formed through the combination of five well known and long-tenured Alaskan air transportation businesses in 2009, creating the largest regional air carrier and network in the state. Ravn owns and, until the COVID-19-related disruptions, operated 72aircraft, at 21 hub airports and 73 facilities, serving 115 destinations in Alaska with up to400 daily flights. Until the COVID-19-related disruptions, the Debtors had over 1,300 employees(non-union), and it carried over 740,000 passengers on an annual basis. The Company provides air transportation and logistics services to the passenger, mail, charter, and freight markets in Alaska, pursuant to U.S. Department of Transportation approval as three separate certificated air carriers.

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