Shares of Aéropostale Inc. were halted Thursday afternoon following speculation that a bankruptcy filing could occur as early as next week.
The last trade on the New York Stock Exchange was at 1:51 p.m., with the shares plunging 27.7 percent to 15 cents. Just before that, Bloomberg reported that the company was preparing a bankruptcy filing “as soon as this month.” The previous close on Wednesday was 21 cents, essentially the trading range for the shares since Monday’s close.
While the report may have spooked some investors, it actually shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
Last month, the teen retailer said it was exploring its strategic and financial options — which could include the sale of the company or a restructuring — on the same day it posted fourth-quarter results. The company widened its loss to $21.7 million from a loss of $13.5 million a year ago. Net sales also dropped 16.1 percent to $498 million from $593.8 million.
Adding to its woes, chief executive officer Julian Geiger said then that while the business trend has improved, it now was embroiled in a vendor dispute with MGF Sourcing U.S., an affiliate of private equity firm Sycamore Partners. A spokesman for MGF has disputed Aéropostale’s claim.
Sycamore in 2014 provided Aéropostale with a $150 million credit facility in exchange for convertible preferred stock. At the time, the two also inked a sourcing agreement in which the retailer would buy between $240 million to $280 million in goods from Sycamore’s sourcing arm. Some believe that Sycamore is standing in the wings waiting for an opportune time to take over the distressed retailer.
Meanwhile, Aéropostale has since shifted more work to Li & Fung, with whom it considers a longtime sourcing partner. Li & Fung is said to have upped the stakes by asking for cash up front for shipments to ensure it gets paid in case there is a bankruptcy filing.
On April 15, Aéropostale filed a Form NT 10-K with the Securities and Exchange Commission, noting that it would delay the filing of its annual report for the year ended Jan. 30, 2015.
The company has hired Stifel and FTI Consulting to assist it in the dual-track process, a sale of the company and a restructuring should it be unable to find a buyer.
A call to David Dicks, the company’s chief financial officer, was forwarded to FTI Consulting, which declined comment.
The stock, which has traded as high as $3.56 in the last 52 weeks was halted at its low for the year.