Insolvency & Restructuring

Croatia: Corporate Transactions During a Pre-Bankruptcy Settlement – Is that an Option?

Approximately one year ago the new pre-bankruptcy settlement act came into force. Since then first attempts to acquire debtors under pre-bankruptcy settlement were made.

Pre-bankruptcy settlement act

Back in Octo­ber 2012 the Finan­cial Oper­a­tions and Pre-Bank­rupt­cy Set­tle­ments Act (Zakon o finan­cijskom poslo­van­ju i pred­steča­jnoj nagod­bi; PBSA) came into force under which under­tak­ings as debtors are grant­ed the pos­si­bil­i­ty to request com­mence­ment of pre-bank­rupt­cy set­tle­ment pro­ceed­ings in order to (in a first step) avoid a reg­u­lar bank­rupt­cy pro­ceed­ing and to try to ensure a going con­cern of the busi­ness car­ried out by such under­tak­ing.

Spir­it and pur­pose of PBSA

Nei­ther the cre­ation nor the imple­men­ta­tion of PBSA was nec­es­sary since the Bank­rupt­cy Act (Steča­jni zakon) already pro­vid­ed for the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the debtor (togeth­er with, or bet­ter an investor) could achieve a going con­cern in gen­er­al; that is, with­out detailed pro­vi­sions reg­u­lat­ing such pro­ce­dure and out­come as pro­vid­ed for now in PBSA, which could be con­sid­ered as over­reg­u­lat­ed and thus unnec­es­sary. It is thus ques­tion­able why PBSA was estab­lished. But in the mean­time the gen­er­al pro­vi­sions in the Bank­rupt­cy Act deal­ing with the pos­si­bil­i­ty to achieve a going con­cern of an insol­vent debtor were delet­ed.

Cur­rent sta­tus

Under the PBSA the entire pro­ce­dure is deter­mined in rather tight details and dead­lines, where­by the pre-bank­rupt­cy set­tle­ment pro­ceed­ing has to be com­plet­ed with­in 120 days as of the open­ing of such pro­ceed­ing with the pos­si­bil­i­ty to pro­long it for an addi­tion­al 90 days. The con­se­quence of these detailed pro­vi­sions is that all par­tic­i­pat­ing par­ties in such a process are bound to mere for­mal­i­ties and dead­lines that make a pos­si­ble invest­ment dur­ing a pre-bank­rupt­cy set­tle­ment pro­ce­dure rather hard to achieve. When look­ing at the spir­it and pur­pose of PBSA, this is con­tra­dic­to­ry. The PBSA is built upon the idea that the debtor (in joint efforts with its shareholder(s)) should recov­er and find a way to a going con­cern with the approval of its cred­i­tors.

Real life

In real life, how­ev­er, a suc­cess­ful restruc­tur­ing and achiev­ing a going con­cern is most like­ly only if (i) the shareholder(s) invest addi­tion­al cap­i­tal into the debtor or (ii) an investor shows inter­est in the debtor’s busi­ness and is will­ing to invest. Pro­vi­sions sup­port­ing the sec­ond option are, unfor­tu­nate­ly, miss­ing in the PBSA.

Acquisition during pre-bankruptcy settlement procedure

On the oth­er hand the PBSA does not exclude the acqui­si­tion of shares of the debtor dur­ing a pre-bank­rupt­cy set­tle­ment pro­ceed­ing. The prac­ti­cal ques­tion is how to do this the most effi­cient way?

Cor­po­rate per­spec­tive

Such an acqui­si­tion process can be car­ried out more or less inde­pen­dent­ly from the pro­vi­sions of the PBSA, as long as such process is com­plet­ed before the creditor’s assem­bly pass­es a res­o­lu­tion on the finan­cial restruc­tur­ing of the debtor and the com­pe­tent com­mer­cial court approves the pre-bank­rupt­cy set­tle­ment agree­ment. Once the finan­cial restruc­tur­ing plan is approved, an investor can acquire con­trol over the debtor only by com­ply­ing with the restruc­tur­ing plan, and most like­ly will have to buy out the cred­i­tors in line with the restruc­tur­ing plan to acquire con­trol over the debtor.

Due dili­gence of debtor

This also means that world­wide accept­ed stan­dard deal rules will most like­ly not be fea­si­ble to apply in the course of such poten­tial acqui­si­tion. Even more, to con­duct a rea­son­able due dili­gence exer­cise on the debtor is usu­al­ly not pos­si­ble with­in the dead­lines of the pre-bank­rupt­cy set­tle­ment pro­ceed­ing and con­sid­er­ing that the man­age­ment and shareholder(s) are con­cen­trat­ing on prepar­ing the required doc­u­ments for the pre-bank­rupt­cy set­tle­ment pro­ceed­ing.

Prac­ti­cal solu­tion

Thus, investors lim­it them­selves to review­ing with­in a very short time (i) the finan­cial data made avail­able by the debtor (who has to draw up finan­cial reports any­way when apply­ing to com­mence a pre-bank­rupt­cy set­tle­ment pro­ce­dure) and its shareholder(s) and (ii) the legal data pro­vid­ed by the debtor and its shareholder(s).

If the investor decides to pur­sue the acqui­si­tion based on such a brief due dili­gence review, it must (i) find an agree­ment with the shareholder(s) of the debtor on the con­di­tions of tak­ing over the shares in the debtor and (ii) offer bet­ter terms and con­di­tions on set­tling the debts of the debtor towards its cred­i­tors than the cred­i­tors would be enti­tled to under the pre-bank­rupt­cy set­tle­ment plan in any event before the cred­i­tor assem­bly decides on the pre-bank­rupt­cy set­tle­ment plan. Oth­er­wise the investor would have no chance to acquire con­trol over the debtor since the pre-bank­rupt­cy set­tle­ment plan usu­al­ly pro­vides for a debt-to-equi­ty swap in favour of the cred­i­tors, with the con­se­quence that the shareholder(s) share in the debtor is dilut­ed.

Such offer must be reflect­ed in an amend­ed bank­rupt­cy set­tle­ment plan, which must be sub­mit­ted to FINA by the debtor in due time after the first cred­i­tors assem­bly in which the cred­i­tors’ claims are assert­ed. This means that the investor must rely on the debtor as well to have a real­is­tic chance to pur­sue the acqui­si­tion, includ­ing the goal to obtain con­trol over the debtor.

Fur­ther­more, if the investor requires merg­er con­trol approval(s) by any com­pe­ti­tion pro­tec­tion agency (be it the Croa­t­ian agency, the EU com­mis­sion, or any oth­er agency), the approval(s) should be obtained before the rel­e­vant PBSA dead­lines.

Alter­na­tive acqui­si­tion struc­ture

If the investor does not have to rely on the coop­er­a­tion of the shareholder(s) of the debtor because it has suf­fi­cient infor­ma­tion on the debtor’s affairs and has decid­ed to acquire a con­trol­ling share­hold­ing in the debtor, it could direct­ly offer to the cred­i­tors a bet­ter quo­ta for their claims towards the debtor and acquire their claims towards the debtor. In such sce­nario, the investor could become the main cred­i­tor of the debtor and acquire con­trol over the debtor by pur­chas­ing the claims of such cred­i­tors and imple­ment­ing the pre-bank­rupt­cy set­tle­ment plan with enter­ing into the pre-bank­rupt­cy set­tle­ment agree­ment. How­ev­er, such way of acqui­si­tion can also be sub­ject to pri­or merg­er con­trol approvals from the com­pe­tent com­pe­ti­tion pro­tec­tion agency/ies. In any case, these mea­sures and pre­req­ui­sites must be imple­ment­ed also before the pre-bank­rupt­cy set­tle­ment agree­ment is approved by the com­pe­tent com­mer­cial court.

Acquisition of control over a company in pre-bankruptcy settlement proceedings is possible. But the process must be carried out within a very short time frame and without the comfort of conducting a reasonable due diligence exercise, and by dealing not only with the shareholder(s) of the debtor but also with the major creditors.

Hrvatska: Korporativne transakcije tijekom predstečajne nagodbe - je li to opcija?

Prije otprilike godinu dana novi zakon o predstečajnoj nagodbi stupio je na snagu. Od tada su učinjeni prvi koraci u odnosu na preuzimanje dužnika u okviru predstečajne nagodbe.

Zakon o predstečajnoj nagodbi

U listopadu 2012. godine na snagu je stu­pio Zakon o finan­cijskom poslo­van­ju i pred­steča­jnoj nagod­bi (Zakon) temel­jem koje­ga je poduzetnici­ma kao dužnici­ma dana mogućnost pokre­tan­ja pos­tup­ka pred­steča­jne nagodbe kako bi (u prvom koraku) izb­jegli uobiča­jeni pos­tu­pak steča­ja te kako bi nas­to­jali oču­vati tra­jnost poslo­van­ja.

Duh i svrha Zakona

Donošen­je i prim­je­na Zakona nisu bilo nužni s obzirom da je Steča­jni zakon već pred­viđao mogućnost da dužnik (zajed­no s investi­torom, ili po ini­ci­ja­tivi investi­to­ra) osigu­ra nas­tavak poslo­van­ja općen­i­to; to jest, i bez detaljnih odred­bi koje sada ure­đu­ju takav pos­tu­pak i ishod sadržan u Zakonu. Mog­lo bio se iz ovog ugla sma­trati kako je pos­tu­pak pre­reg­uli­ran te u kon­ačni­ci nepotre­ban. Sto­ga je donek­le osta­lo upit­no zaš­to je Zakon izrađen. Među­tim, opće odredbe o pos­tu­pan­ju vezane za oču­van­je nas­tavka poslo­van­ja insol­ventnog dužni­ka u među­vre­menu su brisane iz Steča­jnog zakona.

Trenut­na situaci­ja

Zakonom je cijeli pos­tu­pak obil­ježen pril­ično restrik­tivn­im detalji­ma i kratkim rokovi­ma, gdje pos­tu­pak pred­steča­jne nagodbe mora biti završen unutar 120 dana od otvaran­ja pos­tup­ka, s mogućnošću nje­gov­og pro­dužen­ja za dodat­nih 90 dana. Posljed­i­ca takvih restrik­tivnih odred­bi je da su sve strane u tom pos­tup­ku vezane pukim for­mal­nos­ti­ma te rokovi­ma koji otežava­ju moguću ula­gačku aktivnost tijekom pos­tup­ka pred­steča­jne nagodbe. Pro­ma­tra­jući duh i svrhu Zakona, to se čini kon­tradik­torn­im. Zakon je kreiran na ide­ji da dužnik (zajed­ničkim napor­i­ma sa svo­jim članovi­ma društva/dioničarima) uz sug­las­nost svo­jih vjerovni­ka iznađe način oču­van­ja nas­tavka poslo­van­ja.

Prak­sa

U prak­si, među­tim, usp­ješno restruk­turi­ran­je i oču­van­je nas­tavka poslo­van­ja je najv­jero­jat­ni­je samo ako (i) član(ovi) društva/dioničar(i) ulože dodat­ni kap­i­tal u dužni­ka ili (ii) investi­tor pokaže interes za dužniko­vo poslo­van­je te sprem­nost na ula­gan­je. Odredbe, koje bi poduprle drugu opci­ju, nažalost, nedosta­ju u Zakonu.

Preuzimanje tijekom postupka predstečajne nagodbe

S druge strane Zakon ne isključu­je mogućnost stje­can­ja udjela dužni­ka tijekom pos­tup­ka pred­steča­jne nagodbe. Prak­tično pitan­je je kako to izvesti čim učinkovi­tije?

Kor­po­ra­tivni ugao  

Pos­tu­pak stje­can­ja može biti izve­den više ili man­je neo­vis­no od odred­bi Zakona, ako se takav pos­tu­pak okonča pri­je nego vjerovni­ci done­su odluku o finan­cijskom restruk­turi­ran­ju dužni­ka te mjero­davni trgo­v­ač­ki sud ne odobri pos­tu­pak pred­steča­jne nagodbe. Nakon što je plan finan­cijskog restruk­turi­ran­ja odobren, investi­tor može steći kon­trolu nad dužnikom u skladu s planom restruk­turi­ran­ja te je izgled­no kako će morati isplati­ti vjerovnike pre­ma planu restruk­turi­ran­ja kako bi stekao spomenu­tu kon­trolu nad dužnikom.

Dubin­s­ka anal­iza dužni­ka

To također znači da među­nar­o­d­no pri­h­vaćeni poslovni stan­dar­di najv­jero­jat­ni­je neće moći biti prim­i­jen­jeni u pos­tup­ku takvog mogućeg stje­can­ja. Nadal­je, provođen­je pri­h­vatljive dubinske anal­ize nad dužnikom veći­nom nije moguće unutar roko­va koje određu­je pos­tu­pak pred­steča­jne nagodbe, a uz to tre­ba uzeti u obzir i da su menadž­ment i član(ovi)/dioničar(i) usre­do­točeni na pripre­man­je potreb­nih doku­me­na­ta za pos­tu­pak pred­steča­jne nagodbe.

Prak­tič­na rješen­ja

Pre­ma tome, investi­tori se ograničava­ju na ispi­ti­van­je poslo­van­ja unutar vrlo kratkog vre­me­na, i to: (i) finan­cijskih podata­ka učin­jenih dos­tup­n­im od strane dužni­ka (koji sve­jed­no mora izra­di­ti finan­cijs­ka izv­ješća pri pri­javlji­van­ju pos­tup­ka pred­steča­jne nagodbe) i nji­hovih članova/dioničara te (ii) pravnih podata­ka pruženih od strane dužni­ka i nje­gov­ih članova/dioničara.

Ako investi­tor odluči izvrši­ti stje­can­je na temelju tako sažete dubinske anal­ize, on mora: (i) dogov­oriti s članovima/dioničarima dužni­ka uvjete stje­can­ja udjela u dužniku i (ii) ponu­di­ti bol­je rokove i uvjete namiren­ja dugo­va dužni­ka pre­ma nje­gov­im vjerovnici­ma nego na koje bi vjerovni­ci imali pra­vo u okviru plana pred­steča­jne nagodbe, ali u svakom sluča­ju pri­je nego vjerovni­ci done­su plan pred­steča­jne nagodbe. U suprot­nom investi­tor ne bi imao mogućnost stje­can­ja kon­t­role nad dužnikom s obzirom da plan pred­steča­jne nagodbe u prav­ilu omoguću­je pretvor­bu tražbi­na u udjele u kap­i­talu, s posljedi­com da je udio člana/dioničara u dužniku sman­jen.

Tak­va ponu­da se mora odraz­i­ti na izmi­jen­jeni plan pred­steča­jne nagodbe, koji dužnik mora pod­ni­jeti FINA-i u određenom vre­menu nakon prvog ročiš­ta na kojem su vjerovni­ci utvrdili svo­je tražbine. To znači da se investi­tor mora osloni­ti na dužni­ka kako bi imao real­nu mogućnost provođen­ja stje­can­ja, uključu­jući cilj stje­can­ja kon­t­role nad dužnikom.

Nadal­je, ako investi­tor zatraži odobren­je kon­cen­tracije od strane bilo kojeg tijela za zašti­tu tržišnog nat­je­can­ja (bila to hrvats­ka Agen­ci­ja za zašti­tu tržišnog nat­je­can­ja, Europ­s­ka komisi­ja ili neko dru­go tije­lo), odobren­je bi tre­ba­lo biti dobiveno pri­je nas­tu­pa odgo­vara­jućih roko­va određenih u Zakonu.

Alter­na­tiv­na struk­tu­ra stje­can­ja

Ako se investi­tor ne bi morao osloni­ti na surad­nju članova/dioničara dužni­ka jer ima dovoljno infor­ma­ci­ja o stan­ju dužni­ka te jer je odlučio steći kon­trol­ni udio u dužniku, mogao bi izravno ponu­di­ti vjerovnici­ma bol­je uvjete namiren­ja nji­hovih tražbi­na pre­ma dužniku te steći takve tražbine u odno­su na dužni­ka. U takvom sce­nar­i­ju, investi­tor bi mogao posta­ti glavni vjerovnik dužni­ka te steći kon­trolu nad dužnikom putem stje­can­ja tražbi­na tih vjerovni­ka i proved­bom plana pred­steča­jne nagodbe pre­ma sklo­pljenoj pred­steča­jnoj nagod­bi. Ipak, ovakav način stje­can­ja također može biti pred­met prethodnog odobren­ja od strane mjero­davnih tijela za zašti­tu tržišnog nat­je­can­ja. U svakom sluča­ju, ove mjere i pre­du­vjeti mora­ju biti prove­deni također pri­je nego je pos­tu­pak pred­steča­jne nagodbe odobren od strane mjero­davnog trgo­v­ačkog suda.

Stjecanje kontrole nad trgovačkim društvom u postupku predstečajne nagodbe je moguće. Postupak mora biti izvršen unutar kratkog vremenskog perioda i bez sigurnosti provođenja prihvatljive dubinske analize, te uz komunikaciju ne samo sa članovima/dioničarima dužnika već i s glavnim vjerovnicima.