The lender to small and medium-sized businesses is trying to restructure its debt, and is offering investors two options.
One path would be getting its unsecured debt holders — who hold a total of about $30 billion — to voluntarily exchange their bonds for new securities and equity. That path would avoid a bankruptcy filing.
The other and more likely option would be approving a reorganization plan before the company files for bankruptcy. CIT had about $70 billion of assets and $65 billion of total debt in the middle of this year, according to the latest publicly available figures.
CIT investors are entitled to vote for the exchange or the prepackaged bankruptcy by the end of Thursday. CIT spokesman Curt Ritter declined to comment.
The company has $800 million of debt due on November 1 and 3, and total liabilities as of mid-June of $64.9 billion.
Sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters that the voluntary debt exchange is unlikely to happen, and bankruptcy is much more likely.
Analysts have argued that the debt exchange was doomed from the start, because it required too many different kinds of investors with too many competing interests to comply.
“The market is by and large sending signals that a prepackaged is the most likely outcome, and it makes sense given the exchange offer,” said Kevin Starke, senior analyst at boutique brokerage CRT Capital Group.
If the company files for bankruptcy, it will likely try to complete the restructuring process as quickly as possible, experts said. In general, borrowers prefer to borrow money from lenders they are confident will be around for the life of the loan.
“A business like this has to get in and out of bankruptcy fast, because if they’re lingering, I would think competitors would start poaching customers,” said Stephen Lubben, a law professor at Seton Hall’s School of Law who focuses on corporate finance and financial distress issues.
The plan needs to win approval from investors holding two-thirds of the company’s debt, and half of the number of investors.
Activist investor Carl Icahn is encouraging individual investors to vote against CIT’s prepackaged bankruptcy plan. The company hopes its plan will eventually help it fund more new business out of its bank but Icahn wants the company to stop planning to make new loans and use its maturing assets to pay off its debt.
A prepackaged bankruptcy requires the approval of investors holding two-thirds of the dollar amount of every type of debt. Of the voting investors, one half by number must also approve.
Icahn has tried to rally retail investors to vote against the plan, in an effort to ensure that CIT does not get half of voting noteholders to approve the deal.
(Reporting by Dan Wilchins; Editing by Gary Hill)