ViacomCBS parent National Amusements Inc. has set an amended credit agreement with its lenders that gives the company some breathing room in liquidity amid the broader coronavirus-induced economic crisis.
There had been speculation that NAI, headed by ViacomCBS chairman Shari Redstone, would have to sell some of its ViacomCBS holdings after the beating that those shares have taken with a drop of more than 50% as of earlier this week.
In the past some of NAI’s debt covenants have been tied to the value of its roughly 80% voting interest in ViacomCBS, meaning that a sharp drop in the company’s share price could force the Redstone clan that controls NAI to sell shares to raise some quick cash to keep the company in line with its debt agreements.
NAI on Thursday took the unusual step of issuing a statement to confirm that its agreement had been amended without the need for ViacomCBS sales. The amended pact gives NAI access to a revolving credit facility of $125 million and what the company described as “ample liquidity” and “substantial cash reserves” to find NAI operations which includes its Showcase Cinemas exhibition circuit. NAI’s theaters are closed until at least early April amid the national call for social distancing.
“NAI will not sell stock in ViacomCBS and does not intend to pledge additional stock of ViacomCBS, which remains at existing levels,” the company said.
ViacomCBS shares plunged to as low as $10.10 earlier this month amid an across-the-board rout of equities, but the stock has started to recover over the past two days along with the broader market. S&P Global Ratings put NAI on credit watch alert earlier this month in light of the ViacomCBS stock plunge and NAI’s existing debt covenants.
During the last major market downturn in late 2008, National Amusements was forced to offload about $1 billion in Viacom and CBS Corp. shares to meet debt covenants that were tied to NAI loans. At that time, Sumner Redstone had loans on NAI’s books that were tied to his long-term investment in Midway Games, which saw its shares collapse during the 2008-09 recession. Midway filed for bankruptcy in early 2009.
(Pictured: Shari Redstone)