Envision, one of the largest medical staffing companies, completed a restructuring of its roughly $7bn of debt this month as it moved to stave off bankruptcy. This comes less than 18 months after KKR — one of the oldest and largest US private equity firms with more than $200bn of assets — bought the Nashville-based company for nearly $10bn. The Envision deal highlights one of the stress points in a financial system that is creaking under the pressure of the coronavirus-induced recession.
To fund around two-thirds of the acquisition, KKR loaded the company’s balance sheet with junk-rated loans and bonds — a familiar private equity tactic. Those securities provided fuel for one of Wall Street’s least known but most important debt machines: collateralised loan obligations…..
…. In April, Envision began cutting the hours of emergency room doctors who have been one of the first lines of defence for Covid-19 patients. Bonuses have also been postponed and non-clinical staff were told they would be temporarily furloughed or see pay reductions.
“We are putting ourselves literally on the line, often without the protective equipment we need, to then be told our hours are cut, or that schedules are going to change,” says one emergency room doctor working for Envision in Florida. “It’s frustrating that this large company backed by a very large private equity group can’t find other ways around this that don’t hurt the doctors facing this disease head on.” Envision and KKR declined to comment. [Link]
A report from New York Times:
In July, a report from the Center for Popular Democracy, a progressive advocacy group in Brooklyn, said 10 of the 14 largest retail chain bankruptcies since 2012 involved companies that private equity firms had acquired….
… the collapse of Toys “R” Us in 2017 put a spotlight on how major buyouts by the firms could go sideways. The chain had been burdened with $5 billion in debt from a 2005 leveraged buyout by the private equity firms Bain Capital and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and the real estate firm Vornado Realty Trust, and it did not have sufficient funds to invest in its stores and e-commerce business during a crucial period of growth for Amazon and Walmart.
It was eventually liquidated, and more than 30,000 workers were laid off. The workers were not paid severance — even as creditors, bankruptcy lawyers and consultants received payments — until they lobbied pension funds, which invest heavily in funds managed by private equity firms. The situation galvanised politicians and union activists and spurred public outrage. [Link]
Quite what the economy and the society gain from these transactions? What for?