Retail Owner Misses Debt Payment Days After Prepaying Executive Bonuses
A puzzling combination of decisions sent Washington Prime Group's stock tumbling on Tuesday.
The shopping center-focused REIT won't be paying a $23M interest payment on a debt facility due on Feb. 15, instead invoking a 30-day grace period while it assesses repayment options, it announced in an 8-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission signed by Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary Robert Demchak.
Four days earlier, WPG announced in a separate 8-K filing that it would be giving out $11.6M in aggregate bonus payments to 17 executives, contingent upon remaining with the company for 12 months and hitting unnamed performance incentives. The filing was signed by WPG Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Mark Yale. The company did not disclose who would receive the bonuses. Its website lists 11 members of its executive leadership team.
With stock markets closed for President's Day on Monday, WPG opened trading on Tuesday having lost $1.50 per share in value from the $12.08 level its stock closed at on Friday. By 10:30 a.m. ET, WPG's value had slumped to $8.67, amounting to a 32.7% drop.
As part of its Feb. 15 disclosure, WPG announced that it had brought on corporate law firm Kirkland & Ellis and investment banking firm Guggenheim Securities to advise the REIT on its debt strategies. If WPG doesn't pay the $23M in interest by March 17, then some of its lenders could accelerate the due date of repayment for the principal amount owed, causing other defaults across its portfolio, the 8-K stated.
The uncertain future for shopping centers has resulted in companies much bigger than WPG, such as Simon Property Group, giving up on repaying nonrecourse loans on some of their properties. Though some retail landlords that operate in WPG's preferred space of neighborhood centers claimed significant leasing success in the fourth quarter, WPG appears to be in poorer financial shape.
Federal Realty Trust, despite a significant drop in revenue from 2019 to 2020, claimed that it has $800M in cash on hand and an untapped $1B credit facility to back expansion into new markets. In its Q3 earnings report, WPG claimed $118M cash on hand with over $1B in total debt. The loan referenced in the company's most recent filing is not scheduled to mature until 2024.