GuruFocus Premium Membership

Serving Intelligent Investors since 2004. Only 96 cents a day.

Free Trial

Free 7-day Trial
All Articles and Columns »

Nixon pardons Nu Skin

September 02, 2014 | About:
buysidenotes

Bronte Capital

1 followers

Richard M. Nixon did many amazing things in his life.

He hung out with Elvis:

Elvis-nixon.jpg


He hung out with Mao Zedong:

000cf1bdd03f0aca906038.jpg


But by far the most amazing thing he has done is rise from the dead and get a job at JPMorgan Chase Bank.

You might think I am kidding, but Richard Milhouse Nixon as Saint Lazarus of Bethany is a thought/nightmare interrupting my sleep.

====

Attached to the last Nu Skin 10-Q were several contracts for Nu Skin's debt facilities.

This is a link to the fifth amendment to the JPMorgan Chase debt facility dated 5 May 2014.

And here is the signature block for JPMorgan Chase's signature.

JPMORGAN CHASE BANK, N.A., as

Administrative Agents and as a Lender

By: Richard M. Nixon

Title: Senior Underwriter

The facility is signed by Richard M. Nixon on behalf of JPMorgan - the same name including middle initial as the (presumably) deceased President of the United States.

I was surprised.

I did a full text search of the SEC database for any other persons named "Richard M. Nixon" and I only found references to the former President.

I searched LinkedIn - and whilst there are many people with the same name as the former President none I could find works for JPMorgan.

I rang JPMorgan Chase and asked whether they had a staff member called Richard Nixon and was informed they did not. I asked for that in writing.

I received an email saying that they did have someone who worked at JPMorgan called Richard Nixon (but they had no reference to the middle initial). However they noted he would not have signed the document as he did not have the authority.

I asked JPMorgan to put this in writing but they would not, however I rang other people in the bank and received the same answer.

When you ring the switch it turns out there is a Richard Nixon in their internal phone book with no phone number and no initial. He is not an employee of the bank, but rather a consultant paid by an external party. They would not tell me which external party. They said categorically that he was not entitled to sign for the bank.

They did tell me he was based in Texas - which makes him an unlikely person to sign for a Utah Company under New York law. Moreover Richard Nixon does not have an internal email at JPMorgan. Quote them: he is a ghost.

There may - despite my concerted and failed efforts to find them - be a person called Richard M. Nixon who is authorized to sign for and did sign for JPMorgan - but much effort has got me nowhere.

One alternative however is unthinkable. It is that Nu Skin has been hawking fake documents which modify their debt covenants - possibly so they can make undisclosed borrowings contrary to their debt covenants.

Either "Richard M. Nixon" is a real person who has signed a single SEC document for Nu Skin or Nu Skin's CFO (the other signature on the document) has some explaining to do.

The strange signature block

It is so comically unlikely that Tricky Dick has been resurrected as a bank underwriter, that I would naturally lean towards the existence of some Richard M. Nixon working somewhere in the giant institution that is JPMorgan.

There is one minor detail which leans you towards nastier interpretations. In the signature block JPMORGAN CHASE BANK is acting as "Administrative Agents and as a Lender". The word "Agents" has an "s".

The phrase "Administrative Agent and as a Lender" where Agent is in the singular [no "s"] is a common phrase in the SEC database. Other than this filing the phrase "Administrative Agents and as a Lender" does not appear anywhere in the SEC database or for that matter anywhere in the Google database. It is like there is a one-off typo in this document to go with the rather unusual name. Everywhere else in the same document the spurious "s" is absent.

I would like a confirm/denial from JPMorgan in writing as to whether Richard Nixon actually signed this document on behalf of the bank. I promise I will post it as soon as received.

The covenants matter

That Richard Nixon signed the covenant modification for Nu Skin is very convenient for Nu Skin because Nu Skin has been in breach of their loan covenants (at least pre-modifications) since the end of the first quarter of this year. They have however managed to get modifications.

They breached their covenants and received what looks to be an (ex) Presidential Pardon.

Linked is a public google sheet of Nuskin's cash flow statement, quarterly since time immemorial. The data is courtesy the indispensable CapitalIQ.

I have given you this spreadsheet because it is required to work out the debt covenants. There are many covenants (eg restrictions on related party transactions, restrictions on types of finance lease, limitations on amounts that may be borrowed by foreign subsidiaries).

The key covenant is dependent on cash flow from operations less capital expenditures. And they have breached that covenant.

To quote the 10-Q (which again mentions the JPMorgan Chase loan):


As of June 30, 2014, the Company was in violation of its restricted payments covenant under its amended and restated note purchase and private shelf agreement (multi-currency), dated as of May 25, 2012, among the Company, Prudential Investment Management, Inc. and certain other purchasers, as amended (the "Prudential Agreement") and the amended and restated credit agreement, dated as of May 25, 2012, among the Company, various financial institutions, and JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. as administrative agent (the "JPMC Agreement"), which restricts the Company from making dividend payments or stock repurchases to the extent the aggregate amount of such payments exceed $100 million plus the cumulative cash flow from operations less capital investments since June 30, 2012. Effective August 8, 2014, the Company entered into an amendment of the Prudential Agreement that allows the aggregate amount of restricted payments to exceed the allowed threshold by no more than $110 million for the quarter ending June 30, 2014 and $50 million for the quarter ending September 30, 2014, to avoid default or acceleration provisions of the Prudential Agreement. The JPMC Agreement expired pursuant to its terms on August 8, 2014, prior to which all amounts outstanding thereunder were repaid in full.

On the spreadsheet I have done the calculation of whether they breached the debt covenant two ways. One way is looking at buy-backs of shares net of shares issued (which seems reasonable but is contrary to the words of the coveant). The other is the covenant as written.

It doesn't matter which way you look at it. They breached the covenant in the first quarter. This is disclosed in the first-quarter 10-Q.

As of March 31, 2014, the Company was in violation of its restricted payments covenant under its amended and restated credit agreement, dated as of May 25, 2012, among the Company, various financial institutions, and JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. as administrative agent, as amended (the "JPMC Agreement") and its amended and restated note purchase and private shelf agreement (multi-currency), dated as of May 25, 2012, among the Company, Prudential Investment Management, Inc. and certain other purchasers, as amended (the "Prudential Agreement"), which restricts the Company from making dividend payments or stock repurchases to the extent the aggregate amount of such payments exceed $100 million plus the cumulative cash flow from operations less capital investments since June 30, 2012. Effective May 6, 2014, the Company entered into amendments of the JPMC Agreement and the Prudential Agreement that allow the aggregate amount of restricted payments to exceed the allowed threshold by no more than $50 million for the quarter ending March 31, 2014, $100 million for the quarter ending June 30, 2014 and $50 million for the quarter ending September 30, 2014, to avoid default or acceleration provisions of these agreements. The amendment of the JPMC Agreement also fixed the applicable interest rate at LIBOR plus 0.75%, increased the commitment fee to 0.25% and extended the term of the agreement from May 9, 2014 to August 8, 2014, with $15 million reductions in the commitment amount on June 30, 2014 and July 31, 2014.

They amended this breach after quarter end (which it seems required the signature of Richard M. Nixon).

You will note however the wording of the amended covenant changed between the first quarter filing and the second quarter filing. This is pursuant to more modifications of covenants dated 8 August as described above (and repeated here):

Effective August 8, 2014, the Company entered into an amendment of the Prudential Agreement that allows the aggregate amount of restricted payments to exceed the allowed threshold by no more than $110 million for the quarter ending June 30, 2014 and $50 million for the quarter ending September 30, 2014

Strangely they breached that covenant too (as demonstrated in the attached Google sheet).

This restricted them from paying dividends (and presumably also led to default debt acceleration).

Dividend delays

The second page of the spreadsheet contains the dividend announcement, ex and payment date since 2001. That data is courtesy Nasdaq's website.

These are quarterly dividends. They went "ex" a dividend in August of every year since 2005 except this year.

This year they are going "ex" the dividend in September. The announcement was similarly delayed.

The reason they delayed the dividend was that they were in breach of their loan covenants. The day after the dividend was announced they announced yet another loan amendment. This one was on the Bank of America agreement and unfortunately we cannot see who signed on behalf of BofA.

The agreement extends the term from September to December.

Cash scramble

Nu Skin's balance sheet shows $234 million of cash, equivalents and current investments. Most of that cash is offshore (see the 10-Q).

The CFO states in the conference call that there is no difficulty repatriating this foreign money. To quote:

Yes, generally our cash is fully available, with the exception of Venezuela. There are some timing issues throughout some of our markets in Asia where you declare a dividend and then you can remit the dividend back to corporate headquarters. But even in -- especially our larger markets like China, we can get money out through back-to-back loans. So yes, it really is not a cash issue,having the cash tied up overseas.

Okay - so we should not have any difficulty getting cash back to head office. It's really not an issue.

However the company has been borrowing fairly aggressively offshore. This disclosure from the Q is interesting (and involves borrowing up to the limits of covenants).

In July 2014, the Company's subsidiary in Japan borrowed 3 billion Japanese yen (approximately $30.0 million), which is due on September 30, 2014. In July 2014, the Company's subsidiary in South Korea borrowed $20.0 million, which is due in December 2014, with a right to extend the term for an additional six months.

The borrowing of $30 million in Japan for two months is outright strange. It's like hey, I got $234 million in the bank, can you spot me $30 million for two months?

Meeting covenants in the third quarter

The covenants require that they get the "aggregate amount of restricted payments" to exceed the defined cash flow amount by less than $50 million by the end of the third quarter.

This requires something like $150 million of net cash generation in this quarter. This would be inconsistent with the guidance but is within the range that they generated in the last two quarters of 2013.

It seems unlikely to me that the company is going to exceed its guidance by such a massive amount in this quarter.

But miracles happen. After all - even with all his bad karma Richard M. Nixon seems to have been reincarnated as an accommodating but hard to reach banker at JPMorgan Chase.





John

PS. Ford pardoned Nixon on Sep 8, 1974, almost exactly 40 years ago. It is good to take this occasion to remember.


Rating: 4.7/5 (3 votes)

Voters:

Comments

chris mydlo
Chris mydlo premium member - 2 weeks ago

...So they're pleading the 5th on the 5th amendment they filed? Good stuff.

Please leave your comment:


Get WordPress Plugins for easy affiliate links on Stock Tickers and Guru Names | Earn affiliate commissions by embedding GuruFocus Charts
GuruFocus Affiliate Program: Earn up to $400 per referral. ( Learn More)
Free 7-day Trial
FEEDBACK