We are a specialty finance company that provides debt and equity growth capital to technology-related companies at various stages of development from seed and emerging growth to expansion and established stages of development, which include select publicly listed companies and lower middle market companies. We primarily finance privately-held companies backed by leading venture capital and private equity firms and also may finance certain select publicly-traded companies that lack access to public capital or are sensitive to equity ownership dilution. We source our investments through our principal office located in Silicon Valley, as well as our additional offices in Boston and Boulder.
Our goal is to be the leading structured debt financing provider of choice for venture capital and private equity-backed technology-related companies requiring sophisticated and customized financing solutions. Our strategy is to evaluate and invest in a broad range of companies active in the technology and life-science industries and to offer a full suite of growth capital products up and down the capital structure. We invest primarily in structured debt with warrants and, to a lesser extent, in senior debt and equity investments. We use the term “structured debt with warrants” to refer to any debt investment, such as a senior or subordinated secured loan, that is coupled with an equity component, including warrants, options or rights to purchase common or preferred stock. Our structured debt with warrants investments will typically be secured by select or all of the assets of the portfolio company.
We focus our investments in companies active in the technology industry sub-sectors characterized by products or services that require advanced technologies, including, but not limited to, computer software and hardware, networking systems, semiconductors, semiconductor capital equipment, information technology infrastructure or services, Internet consumer and business services, telecommunications, telecommunications equipment, renewable or alternative energy, media and life sciences. Within the life sciences sub-sector, we generally focus on medical devices, bio-pharmaceutical, drug discovery, drug delivery, health care services and information systems companies. We refer to all of these companies as “technology-related” companies and intend, under normal circumstances, to invest at least 80% of the value of our assets in such businesses.
Our investment objective is to maximize our portfolio total return by generating current income from our debt investments and capital appreciation from our equity-related investments. Our primary business objectives are to increase our net income, net operating income and net asset value by investing in structured debt with warrants and equity of venture capital and private equity backed technology-related companies with attractive current yields and the potential for equity appreciation and realized gains. Our structured debt investments typically include warrants or other equity interests, giving us the potential to realize equity-like returns on a portion of our investments. Our equity ownership in our portfolio companies may represent a controlling interest. In some cases, we receive the right to make additional equity investments in our portfolio companies in connection with future equity financing rounds. Capital that we provide directly to venture capital and private equity backed technology-related companies is generally used for growth and general working capital purposes as well as in select cases for acquisitions or recapitalizations.
Our portfolio is comprised of, and we anticipate that our portfolio will continue to be comprised of, investments in technology-related companies at various stages of development. Consistent with regulatory requirements, we invest primarily in United States based companies and to a lesser extent in foreign companies. Since 2007, our investing emphasis has been primarily on private companies following or in connection with a subsequent institutional round of equity financing, which we refer to as expansion-stage companies and private companies in later rounds of financing and certain public companies, which we refer to as established-stage companies and lower middle market companies. We have also historically focused our investment activities in private companies following or in connection with the first institutional round of financing, which we refer to as emerging-growth companies.
CURRENT ECONOMIC AND MARKET ENVIRONMENT
The U.S. capital and credit markets have been experiencing disruption and volatility since the summer of 2008 as evidenced by a lack of liquidity in the debt capital markets, significant write-offs in the financial services sector, the repricing of credit risk in the broadly syndicated credit market and the failure of many major financial institutions. These events have contributed to a continuing economic recession that is materially and adversely impacting the broader financial and credit markets and reducing the availability of credit and equity capital for the markets as a whole and financial services firms in particular, including us.
At the same time, the venture capital market for the technology-related companies in which we invest has been active, but is continuing to show signs of stress and reduced investment activity. Therefore, to the extent we have capital available; we believe this is an opportune time to invest on a limited basis in the structured lending market for technology-related companies. While today’s economy creates potentially new attractive lending opportunities, our outlook remains cautious as the economic environment may cause additional portfolio stress. Due to the continuing economic slowdown and due to reduced venture capital investment activity, we determined that it would be prudent to substantially curtail new investment activity in 2009 in order to have working capital available to support our existing portfolio companies. These changes were made to manage our credit performance, maintain adequate liquidity and manage our operating expenses in this extremely challenging and unprecedented credit environment.
Like many other companies, we have continued to engage in activities to deleverage our balance sheet and strengthen cash resources available to us.
As discussed herein, on March 25, 2009, we paid off all outstanding borrowings under the Citigroup Global Markets Realty Corp. and Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. credit facility (the “Credit Facility”).
To minimize disruptions in our business as a result of current market conditions, we entered into an amendment with Wells Fargo Foothill, effective April 30, 2009, to decrease the minimum tangible net worth covenant from $360 million to $250 million, as discussed in the Wells Facility section of “Borrowings.” In February 2010, we extended the facility by one year to August 2011.
As of December 31, 2009, the maximum statutory limit on the dollar amount of outstanding debentures guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) issued to a single small business investment company (“SBIC”) is $150.0 million. As of December 31, 2009, Hercules Technology II, L.P. (“HT II”), our wholly owned SBIC subsidiary, has regulatory capital of $68.55 million and a commitment from the SBA to issue debentures up to $137.1 million, of which approximately $130.6 million was outstanding as of December 31, 2009. There is no assurance that HT II will be able to draw up to the maximum limit available under the SBIC program. In addition, we are eligible to be approved for a second license which would allow us to draw an aggregate of $225.0 million with an additional investment of $37.5 million of regulatory capital. We submitted our application to obtain a second lender license, and, in February 2010, we responded to the SBA’s comment letter relating to our second lender license. We anticipate that the license should be approved during the spring of 2010; however there can be no assurance that the SBA will grant us a second lender license or when the license will be approved.
In addition, to strengthen our liquidity position and preserve cash, in March 2009, 90% of our first quarter 2009 dividend was paid with approximately 1.9 million newly issued shares of common stock and 10% or approximately $1.1 million, was paid in cash.
In February 2010, we completed our credit facility negotiations with Union Bank providing a one year credit facility of $20.0 million. Pricing of the credit facility is LIBOR plus 2.25% with a floor of 4.0%, an advance rate of 50% against eligible loans, and secured by loans in the borrowing base.
Despite the current capital market disruption and recession, we continue to see a steady pace of new investments by venture capitalists. As a result of this favorable level of venture capital investment activities, we are experiencing an increase in new investment origination activities which commenced in the fourth quarter of 2009, and would expect it to continue to the extent the venture capital community continues to accelerate its own pace of new investments. To the extent that we are able, we intend to seek new investment opportunities; however, we remain cautious and conservative in our investment and credit management strategies and we do not expect to see significant growth in the portfolio until the second half of 2010.
CORPORATE HISTORY AND OFFICES
We are a Maryland Corporation formed in December 2003 that began investment operations in September 2004. We are an internally managed, non-diversified, closed-end investment company that has elected to be treated as a business development company under the Investment Company Act of 1940 Act. As a business development company, we are required to meet various regulatory tests. A business development company is required to invest at least 70% of its total assets in “qualifying assets,” including securities of private and thinly traded public U.S. companies, cash, cash equivalents, U.S. government securities and high-quality debt investments that mature in one year or less. A business development company also must meet a coverage ratio of total net assets to total senior securities, which include all of our borrowings (including accrued interest payable) except for debentures issued by the Small Business Administration, and any preferred stock we may issue in the future, of at least 200% subsequent to each borrowing or issuance of senior securities. See “Item 1. Business—Regulation as a Business Development Company”.
From incorporation through December 31, 2005, we were taxed as a corporation under Subchapter C of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 or as amended (the “Code”). We have elected to be treated for federal income tax purposes as a regulated investment company, or “RIC,” under the Code. In order to continue to qualify as a RIC for federal income tax purposes, we must meet certain requirements, including certain minimum distribution requirements. See “Item 1. Business—Certain United States Federal Income Tax Considerations.”
Our principal executive offices are located at 400 Hamilton Avenue, Suite 310, Palo Alto, California 94301 and our telephone number is (650) 289-3060. We also have additional offices in Boston, Boulder and Chicago. We maintain a website on the Internet at www.herculestech.com. Information contained in our website is not incorporated by reference into this Annual Report, and you should not consider that information as part of this Annual Report. Our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and our current reports on Form 8-K, as well as any amendments to those reports, are available free of charge through our website as soon as reasonably practicable after we file them with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). These reports are also available on the SEC’s website at www.sec.gov.
OUR MARKET OPPORTUNITY
We believe that technology-related companies compete in one of the largest and most rapidly growing sectors of the U.S. economy and that continued growth is supported by ongoing innovation and performance improvements in technology products as well as the adoption of technology across virtually all industries in response to competitive pressures. We believe that an attractive market opportunity exists for a specialty finance company focused primarily on investments in structured debt with warrants in technology-related companies for the following reasons:
Technology-related companies have generally been underserved by traditional lending sources; Unfulfilled demand exists for structured debt financing to technology-related companies as the number of lenders has declined due to the recent financial market turmoil; Structured debt with warrants products are less dilutive and complement equity financing from venture capital and private equity funds; and Valuations currently assigned to technology-related companies in private financing rounds have generally decreased since 2008 as a result of the turmoil in the general market and should provide a good opportunity for attractive capital returns.
Technology-Related Companies are Under served by Traditional Lenders. We believe many viable technology-related companies backed by financial sponsors have been unable to obtain sufficient growth financing from traditional lenders, including financial services companies such as commercial banks and finance companies, particularly due to the recent credit market dislocation and because traditional lenders have continued to consolidate and have adopted a more risk-averse approach to lending. More importantly, we believe traditional lenders are typically unable to underwrite the risk associated with financial sponsor-backed companies effectively.
The unique cash flow characteristics of many technology-related companies include significant research and development expenditures and high projected revenue growth thus often making such companies difficult to evaluate from a credit perspective. In addition, the balance sheets of emerging-growth and expansion-stage companies often include a disproportionately large amount of intellectual property assets, which can be difficult to value. Finally, the speed of innovation in technology and rapid shifts in consumer demand and market share add to the difficulty in evaluating technology-related companies.