CIT Group In Talks with Bondholders, as Bankruptcy Looms

NEW YORK (Reuters) – CIT Group Inc (CIT.N) was in talks with a bondholder group on Saturday, as the lender tried to hammer out a rescue financing deal before markets opened and avoid bankruptcy, a source close to the situation said.

Talks with the bondholder group, advised by investment bank Houlihan Lokey, for a $2 billion to $3 billion financing were expected to continue into Sunday with the aim of announcing a deal by Monday morning, the source said.

If a deal is not reached, the 101-year-old lender that services nearly one million small- and mid-sized businesses could file for bankruptcy protection as soon as Monday, according to the source, who did not want to be identified because talks are private.

Talks are also going on a parallel track for debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing if the lender has to file for bankruptcy, the source said.

JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N), Barclays PLC (BARC.L) and Morgan Stanley (MS.N), which is also advising the company, might take part in a DIP financing, the source said.

CIT spokesman Curt Ritter declined to comment.

The ripples from a potential CIT collapse could be widespread and worsen the effects of the economic downturn for some firms.

In one early sign, an Alabama hardware supplier filed for bankruptcy blaming the CIT situation for its woes.

Moore-Handley Inc (MHCO.PK) said in court papers filed Friday that it was forced to seek bankruptcy protection “due to difficulties accessing funds” under their financing arrangements with CIT. [ID:nN18474850]

Still, the impact of CIT’s demise would likely pale by comparison with the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers (LEHMQ.PK) last September, analysts said.

CIT gained a bank holding company status in December so it could draw $2.33 billion of taxpayer money from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Relief Program.

The company, however, faced a worsening liquidity crunch amid tight credit markets, forcing it to seek further help.

But the Obama administration declined CIT additional help, saying it had set high standards for granting aid to companies, leaving the embattled lender to work out a deal with private investors to avoid collapse.

Talks with JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs for short-term financing did not lead to a deal, leaving the lender to try to get rescue funds from the bondholders.

CIT has about $40 billion of long-term debt, according to independent research firm CreditSights.

About $1.1 billion of debt will come due in August, followed by about $2.5 billion by year end.

The company’s shares closed up 29 cents, or 71 percent, at 70 cents on Friday. Its shares lost 75 percent of its market value on Thursday as government talks for financing collapsed.

Standard & Poor’s said on Friday that it was removing CIT from its S&P 500 .SPX market index as of July 24 after the close of trade, replacing it with software maker Red Hat Inc (RHT.N).

By Paritosh Bansal