Delphi Corp. Bankruptcy: They Could Have Used a Better Oracle

| About: Delphi Automotive (DLPH)

Increasing competition from foreign suppliers; a reduced number of motor vehicles being produced by General Motors; U.S. labor legacy liabilities and noncompetitive wage and benefit levels; restrictive collectively bargained labor agreement provisions; and, increasing commodity prices, most notably steel, petroleum-based resin products and copper —all these variables compounded an already deteriorating financial picture at Delphi Corporation, the U.S. largest auto-parts maker. In October 2005, Delphi (and certain of its U.S. subsidiaries) threw in the proverbial towel, filing voluntary petitions for reorganization relief under chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code.

On October 11, 2005, the New York Stock Exchange [NYSE] announced the suspension of trading of Delphi’s common stock. The NYSE subsequently determined to suspend trading based on the trading price for the common stock, which closed at $0.33 on October 10, 2005, and completed de-listing procedures on November 11, 2005.

The Common Stock of Delphi (DPHAQ.PK) currently trades on the Pink Sheets, a quotation service for over the counter [OTC] securities, and is no longer subject to the regulations and controls imposed by the NYSE. Unlike securities traded on a stock exchange, such as the NYSE, issuers of securities traded on the Pink Sheets do not have to meet any specific quantitative and qualitative listing and maintenance standards.

The share price of Delphi has gained an amazing 582 percent in value in the last year, as investors speculate that there will be material value left for shareholders when a solvent Delphi emerges from bankruptcy proceedings.

Scottish writer Thomas Carlyle (1795-1888) said, “Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct." Given Delphi’s current obligations, the 10Q Detective does not subscribe to the optimistic conviction and believes that the Company’s course of conduct will prove the Common Stock to be declared worthless.

The plan of reorganization has a human face— 'early' retirement for hourly workers and modified retiree benefits. Still, the Delphi bankruptcy remains a balance sheet event. Ultimately, it was the Company’s inability to effectively respond to a magnitude of financial challenges, including its U.S. legacy liabilities (such as debt-service levels, fixed labor costs, and prior pension and health care funding obligations) and dependence on GM for top-line growth (about 48% of 2005 net sales) that pushed the Company over the edge:

  • As of June 30, 2006, Delphi had total assets of $15.06 billion (less inventories and goodwill) and total liabilities of about $25.3 billion. Additionally, the Company owes about $1.27 billion in other financial contracts and obligations (such as IT purchase commitments and capital/operating leases) that come due in the next four years.
  • Management believes that the average rates at which it currently compensates its hourly workers, including employee and retiree benefits, is nearly three times the average hourly labor rates paid by its U.S. peer companies. Specifically, Delphi’s U.S. hourly pension and other post retirement benefits [OPEB]—mainly health and life insurance—exposed Delphi to approximately $10.7 billion in unfunded liabilities at December 31, 2005, of which approximately $2.3 billion was attributable to unfunded pension obligations and $8.4 billion was attributable to OPEB obligations. [Ed. note.The Company is only allowed to defer these contributions until it emerges from Chapter 11. As such, the projected future cash outflows for hourly pension contributions and OPEB payments will increase as Delphi’s U.S. workforce continues to age and the ratio of retirees to active employees increases.]
  • Delphi is currently operating as “debtors-in-possession” [DIP]. Specifically, DIP is unique from other financing methods in that it provides the lenders with (a first lien) priority over existing obligations, including debt and equity (current shareholders are considered unsecured claimants).

    J.P. MORGAN SECURITIES INC. and Citigroup Global Markets, Inc arranged the DIP. As of December 31, 2005, Delphi had $250 million in term loans and $7 million of letters of credit outstanding under its DIP credit facility. However, Delphi has the ability to borrow up to $2.0 billion from its lenders. [Ed. Note. Again—each additional dollar borrowed means one less potential dollar for shareholders.]

  • The Chapter 11 Filings triggered defaults on basically all debt obligations, including 10.0 million shares of trust preferred securities [collectively known as Delphi Trust I and Delphi Trust II]. The property trustee of each Trust is in the process of liquidating each Trust’s assets and it is expected that the holders of the trust preferred securities will receive in exchange for their securities a pro rata share of the Trusts respective junior subordinated notes issued by Delphi (which leaves even less of the money pie for Common Stock holders).
  • As of June 30, 2006, Delphi had a total stockholder deficit of $(7.93) billion [understated!], or about $(14.12) per share.

    Although Delphi will probably emerge from bankruptcy as a viable entity, the math suggests that it is the creditors and bondholders who will become the Company’s new owners—not the stockholders.

    “A speculator is a man who observes the future, and acts before it occurs.” –Bernard Baruch.

    Despite the empirical evidence to the contrary, conventional wisdom (and the efficient market hypothesis) does little to explain why investors would invest $2.00 in a stock that is seemingly worthless. In our view, mob psychology might help to define why individual investors tend to ignore responsible judgment. Being part of a group— which, in this stock example, includes the plethora of message boards and related threads—makes investors absorb the behavior of the collective while also being able to mask their actual identities. Ergo, as the price of Delphi started to rise from pennies to quarters, the message boards started buzzing that the price was headed much higher.

    "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
    I come to bury Cæsar, not to praise him.
    The evil that men do lives after them;
    The good is oft interred with their bones." –[William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.]

    And in his stirring speech, Marc Antony incited the gathering mob to drive Julius Caesar’s assassins from the city of Rome.

    Editor David J Phillips does not own any of the stocks mentioned in this article. The 10Q Detective has a full disclosure policy.

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    Tagged: , Auto Parts, United Kingdom
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