Neiman Marcus sales slowly build as debt refinancing talks reset
Tensions are rising as at least one debtholder alleges the company has engaged in "deceptive and misleading conduct" with the transfer of its MyTheresa e-commerce business.
Neiman Marcus on Thursday reported its fiscal first-quarter results (for the period ended Oct. 27), which CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck said "demonstrate[s] the ongoing stabilization of our business." Lately, though, debtholders haven't been so sure.
The company reported that total revenue for its first quarter reached $1.1 billion, a 2.8% increase in comparable revenue year over year. That marks the company's fifth consecutive quarter of comparable revenue rises, the company said. While comps were up, net loss widened to $28.2 million from $26.2 million in the year ago period. Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) climbed to $135.3 million from $122.3 million. And capital expenditures rose to $37.6 million from $24.7 million in the year ago period.
The overall positive report comes on the heels of rising tensions with bondholders and lenders, with whom Neiman Marcus had been engaged in confidential talks since Oct. 24 to refinance its roughly $4.5 billion long-term debt load, according to a regulatory report filed with the SEC Friday. The three parties, according to those documents, each issued their own proposals that offered Neiman Marcus varying amounts of time to pay back its debt. Ultimately, none were agreed upon.
During a conference call Thursday morning, van Raemdonck said the company has "ample runway to address our debt," adding that he's certain a "multi-beneficial solution can be reached."
The refinancing talks — referred to internally by codename "Project Rolex" in the company's SEC docs — focus on an "ignite to win" plan that aims to drive total sales to $700 million in adjusted EBITDA within five years, according to the Friday report. Loosely, the company's strategy to get there hinges on its ability to deepen customer relationships in key luxury metro areas, build "seamless experiences" with the help of digital personalization tools and connect emotionally with luxury shoppers through its assortment and service.
But at least one debtholder has raised increasingly urgent doubt over the department store retailer's ability to pay off its debt while building the future it envisions in the retail landscape.
That debtholder, Marble Ridge Capital, holds 8.75% of Neiman's senior notes and term loans. In September, the distressed debt investment firm blasted Neiman Marcus over the transfer of its MyTheresa e-commerce business (which is viewed as one of its most valuable remaining assets) to Neiman Marcus Group, Inc., the company's parent entity. That group is ultimately owned by two private equity firms, Ares and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.
MyTheresa, which was bought in 2014, was previously included in Neiman Marcus' digital sales figures, and made up a significant portion of its growth. Upon announcement of the transfer in September, Neiman Marcus broke out the sales figures, showing that while overall e-commerce at Neiman Marcus was up 14.8%, it only grew 9.9% without MyTheresa, Debtwire Analyst Philip Emma told Retail Dive in an interview.
On Thursday, the company said online comps rose 8.9% to $366 million. Going forward, the company added that results for MyTheresa will no longer be included in publicly disclosed reports.
Back in September, Marble Ridge told Neiman's board it believed the "asset transfer was an attempt to move the business beyond the reach of existing creditors. The company went as far as to claim that Neiman was "insolvent" and that the MyTheresa transfer "has all the hallmarks of an intentional or constructive fraudulent transfer." Two days later, Marble Ridge sent a second letter threatening legal action against Neiman Marcus. In an email to Retail Dive, the company cited its improving financial metrics and dismissed the allegations as "inaccurate, both legally and factually."
A third, more contentious letter arrived Dec. 3. "We have been clear throughout our communications with you that the valuable MyTheresa assets must be returned to Neiman Marcus Group…" the letter stated, adding that "no effort by you to engage with creditors can properly move forward unless and until these prerequisites are addressed." Marble Ridge alleges that Neiman Marcus has engaged in "deceptive and misleading conduct."
Neiman Marcus executives did not directly address the concerns by Marble Ridge in its earnings report or conference call.
Van Raemdonck, who took over the CEO role in February, did note that the company's transformation will be driven forward in part by a number of newcomers to its C-suite, including: CFO/COO Adam Orvos, Chief Digital Officer Carrie Tharp, President of Bergdorf Goodman Darcy Penick and Chief Transformation Officer Katie Mullen.
While Neiman Marcus' sales are slowly growing quarter after quarter, it still landed a spot on Retail Dive's bankruptcy watch list last month. Emma, however, says the company is in no immediate financial danger.
"They still have a significant amount of liquidity, however, you're starting to come into a point where you're dealing with a maturity schedule that becomes you know relatively compact," he said. "Their term loan matures on Oct. 25, 2020, which means it goes current pay on their financial statement on October of 2019."
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