Australia: Scheming and restructuring to protect creditors

This week's TGIF considers the case of In the matter of Boart Longyear Limited [2017] NSWSC 537 in which the NSW Supreme Court made orders to assist with the restructuring of a group of companies to the ultimate benefit of creditors.

BACKGROUND

A group of companies in financial difficulty sought the Court's approval of two interdependent creditors' schemes of arrangement which would effect a restructuring of the group's financial affairs. The group had operations both in Australia and the US.

The creditors' schemes were largely supported by the companies' creditors. However, one of the group's key US creditors (a significant holder of senior secured notes) indicated that it would seek to block the restructure, as it considered it could procure more favourable terms. Accordingly, there was a risk that the US creditor would seek to bring proceedings in both Australia and the US to jeopardise the proposed schemes. Especially in circumstances where the company not paid interest on its senior secured notes.

THE APPLICATION

The companies sought orders that:

  1. Any further proceedings against them be restrained under s411(16) of the Corporations Act; and
  2. A director of one of the companies who was resident in the US be authorised to act as a 'foreign representative' for the purposes of making an application to the United States Bankruptcy Court for recognition of the Australian proceeding (approval of the schemes), under Chapter 15 of the United States Bankruptcy Code.

The application for orders pursuant to s411(16) was brought prior to the application for an order to convene the scheme meetings.

The scheme class issue is currently subject to an appeal from a separate judgment (see In the matter of Boart Longyear Ltd [2017] NSWSC 567.

RESTRAINT OF PROCEEDINGS?

S411(16) provides that where a compromise or arrangement has been proposed between a company and its creditors (or any class of them), notwithstanding that no order or resolution has been made to wind up the company, the Court may restrain any further proceedings being brought against it.

The evidence before the Court was that:

  • The creditors who supported the schemes comprised a significant proportion of the total debt held by secured creditors (77.9%).
  • It was likely that the companies would shortly become insolvent absent any moratorium with their creditors.
  • If approved, the schemes had the potential to result in a better return to creditors than a winding up.

In making the order under s411(16), the Court held that:

  • The reference to "further proceedings" in s411(16) is not limited to proceedings presently in existence, but includes those proceedings not yet commenced. This is conducive to the orderly and efficient consideration of the proposed schemes and consistent with the trend in modern international insolvency practice to recognise the risks of multiple proceedings which do not involve any form of collective resolution of claims against a company in financial difficulty.
  • For a compromise or arrangement to be 'proposed' for the purposes of s411(16), it does not require that all steps of the scheme be completed. It is likely to be sufficient that the substantial features of the scheme have been identified and made known to creditors.
  • In this case, a proposal existed because a detailed announcement was made to the ASX at an early stage which set out the substance of the proposed schemes and detailed explanatory memoranda were provided to ASIC, including draft expert reports.
  • In exercising its discretion under s411(16), the Court would also have regard to the risk that individual steps taken by creditors (as was present in this case) could give rise to a preference or seek to frustrate the procedure in s411(16), which could potentially force a company into voluntary administration or liquidation.

FOREIGN REPRESENTATIVE?

Chapter 15 of the US Bankruptcy Code broadly corresponds to the Model Law on Cross Border Insolvency of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (Model Law), which is set out in Schedule 1 to the Cross-Border Insolvency Act 2008 (Cth).

Article 1 of the Model Law states that it applies in circumstances where assistance is sought by a foreign court or foreign representative in connection with a foreign proceeding or in a foreign state in connection with a proceeding under Australian insolvency laws (amongst other things).

In appointing the director as a foreign representative, Black J held that:

  • The same reasons that support an order under s 411(16) in order to preserve the opportunity for a restructuring of the companies may well support the grant of a stay of proceedings in the US.
  • Although no foreign proceeding yet existed in the US, this application fell within the ambit of Article 1 because it was made in respect of potential US proceedings in connection with the Australian s411 proceeding seeking approval of the schemes.
  • The fact that there could be potential proceedings in the US was enough to enliven the Court's jurisdiction to co-operate with the US Courts in order to avoid acts detrimental to creditors under Article 23 of the Model Law.

His Honour also said that had he not reached the conclusion that the Court should make the order appointing the director as a foreign representative pursuant to the Model Law, he would have concluded that the Court had an inherent jurisdiction to do so.

COMMENT

This case highlights the Court's willingness to assist with the restructuring of companies to the benefit of creditors and provides a good example of how the Australian insolvency law, through the adoption of the Model Law, can work in harmony with the insolvency laws of other jurisdictions.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

Chambers Asia Pacific Awards 2016 Winner – Australia
Client Service Award
Employer of Choice for Gender Equality (WGEA)

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

    Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of www.mondaq.com

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

    Disclaimer

    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

    Registration

    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

    Cookies

    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

    Links

    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

    Mail-A-Friend

    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

    Emails

    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .

    Security

    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions