Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Sell Out Of Borders

Ever get your mortgage banker to knock 25% off your interest rate? Me either. Not so those intrepid financiers at Borders. In announcing the loan rescue on their conference call, they professed due diligence seeking the best terms "under the circumstances" (what those are remain a mystery); they have now managed, no more than ten days later, to reduce their interest rate from usury 12% to a 9% rate beloved of Shylock: "Three thousand ducats for three months."

Pershing Square, the largest shareholder in Borders and the provider of this financial rescue package still retain all the advantages they had before they lowered the rate. They wouldn't have done this unless someone else offered up a better rate but even so as an insider they always had the advantage. What is troubling is that the 'due diligence' that should have occurred upfront to get the best rate clearly never happened. And remember, it is still not clear that this financial lifeboat was even necessary. The financial 'crisis' was news to every analyst that follows the company on behalf of their investors.

Great news however for all the managers at Borders since they have been able to provide a safety net for themselves. Stay bonus's galore: "For positions at the executive vice president level and above, the threshold, target and maximum bonus opportunities under the Bonus Plan as currently in effect are established at 20%, 80% and 160% of salary, respectively." This enhancement to their existing bonus plan only applies to four executives. Two of which - Jones and Wilheim (CFO) aren't going anywhere and one of the remaining is head of HR and with all due respect what is important about his contribution to the financial health of the company? And that leaves aside the question why no one lower than EVP has a package. Jones also got more options and is already in the money. There are many more insider transactions noted from last week and there was a lot of volume at the open on Monday. The stock closed at $6.54 up 6% on the day.

The company also indicated they would hold off filing their 10K.

SEC filings on Monday also saw a new strategic investor enter the fray. Gerald Catenacci who owns Highway Partners equity fund has acquired 5% of the company. Reuters also reported the news and notes no reason has been given for the investment. He evidently has something with roads: Highway, motorway, expressway, freeway are all names of investment vehicles (oopps). There doesn't appear to be any relationship between Highway and Pershing.

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