Finlay Refinances Amid Liquidity Concerns

Amid speculation about its future, Finlay Enterprises announced a new deal with its bondholders, who have injected another $20 million into the company and are allowing it to defer some $5.5 million in interest payments.

As a result, Standard & Poor’s Ratings lowered its corporate credit rating on Finlay to SD (selective default) from CC. It also lowered the issue-level rating on Finlay’s 8.375 percent senior notes due June 2012 to D. The rating service said it considered the offer a distressed exchange and, as such, tantamount to a default.

David Kurtz, the analyst who rates the company, listed Finlay’s negative factors: poor retail climate; dependence on department stores, whose problems affect Finlay; substantial debt, including a leverage ratio of 16.4 to 1; and limited experience running free-standing retail stores.

In its third-quarter financial results, the company said sales for the nine months of fiscal 2008 increased 22.8 percent to $556 million. However, the company lost $44.1 million in the period, compared with a $23.7 million loss the year before. And third-quarter same-store sales were down 13.5 percent.

In the conference call following the release of those results, chairman and CEO Arthur Reiner said the company would be “carefully managing our expenses, our inventory investments, and capital expenditures.”

However, a Goldman Sachs note on Finlay warned that the company was “carrying an extremely high amount of leverage.” Noting that Macy’s is contracting divisions, it said that “the leased department side of Finlay’s business is likely to contract further, even in the event of a turn in the economy.”