Canada: LACC : Vente D'éléments D'actif Libres De Charges Avant Le Dépôt D'un Plan D'arrangement : L'exemple De Chantiers Davie Inc.

Chantiers Davie st en restructuration suivant la LACC et, à la veille de l'expiration de la suspension des procédures, l'acheteur identifié des éléments d'actifs se désiste. La restructuration devient compromise.

Des efforts de dernière minute permettent d'identifier un autre acheteur, un consortium formé de Upper Lakes Group Inc., SNC Lavalin Defence Contractors Inc. et Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. Ce consortium entreprend des négociations intensives avec Davie et son principal créancier garanti, Investissement Québec et le contrôleur pour pouvoir acquérir les éléments d'actif de Davie et ainsi se qualifier pour la production de soumissions pour les chantiers à venir dans le cadre de la stratégie nationale en matière de construction navale du Gouvernement du Canada.

Il y a urgence à ce que la vente des éléments d'actif soit autorisée et la requête pour vendre les éléments d'actif libres de charges est considérée par le tribunal. Elle reçoit l'appui de l'ensemble des intéressés visés, dont Investissement Québec, des créanciers garantis importants et du contrôleur. Un créancier s'y oppose toutefois soulevant que cette autorisation priverait les créanciers de leur droit fondamental de se prononcer sur un plan d'arrangement, droit garanti par le mécanisme prévu aux articles 4 à 6 de la LACC, se plaignant de n'avoir jamais été consulté concernant le processus de la vente des éléments d'actif et se plaignant que l'un de ses concurrents possédant un statut identique au sien face à Davie, jouit d'un traitement distinct en ce que ce concurrent, suivant la transaction envisagée, obtiendra de l'acquéreur un engagement à poursuivre la construction de ses navires alors que ce ne sera pas le cas pour lui.

Le tribunal considère le tout et revoit les dispositions de l'article 36 LACC qui énoncent les conditions et les facteurs dont le tribunal tient compte dans les circonstances :

36.(1) em>Il est interdit à la compagnie débitrice à l'égard de laquelle une ordonnance a été rendue sous le régime de la présente loi de disposer, notamment par vente, d'actifs hors du cours ordinaire de ses affaires sans l'autorisation du tribunal. Le tribunal peut – 11 – accorder l'autorisation sans qu'il soit nécessaire d'obtenir l'acquiescement des actionnaires, et ce malgré toute exigence à cet effet, notamment en vertu d'une règle de droit fédéral ou provincial.

  1. La compagnie qui demande l'autorisation au tribunal en avise les créanciers garantis qui peuvent vraisemblablement être touchés par le projet de disposition.
  2. Pour décider s'il accorde l'autorisation, le tribunal prend en considération, entre autres, les facteurs suivants :
    1. la justification des circonstances ayant mené au projet de disposition ;
    2. l'acquiescement du contrôleur au processus ayant mené au projet de disposition, le cas échéant ;
    3. le dépôt par celui-ci d'un rapport précisant que, à son avis, la disposition sera plus avantageuse pour les créanciers que si elle était faite dans le cadre de la faillite ;
    4. la suffisance des consultations menées auprès des créanciers ;
    5. les effets du projet de disposition sur les doits de tout intéressés, notamment les créanciers ;
    6. le caractère juste et raisonnable de la contrepartie reçue pou les actifs compte tenu de leur valeur marchande.

[...]

  1. Le tribunal peut autoriser la disposition d'actifs de la compagnie, purgés de toute charge, sûreté ou autre restriction, et, le cas échéant, est tenu d'assujettir le produit de la disposition ou d'autres de ses actifs à une charge, sûreté ou autre restriction en faveur des créanciers touchés par la purge.
  2. Il ne peut autoriser la disposition que s'il est convaincu que la compagnie est en mesure d'effectuer et effectuera les paiements qui auraient été exigés en vertu des alinéas 6(4)a) et (5)a) s'il avait homologué la transaction ou l'arrangement.

Le tribunal rappelle que ces dispositions (de droit nouveau) n'exigent pas qu'un plan d'arrangement soit préalablement présenté aux créanciers pour pourvoir permettre une vente d'éléments d'actif hors du cours normal des affaires.

Par les nouvelles dispositions introduites en 2009, le législateur a démontré clairement son intention de permettre la disposition d'actifs, même si cette disposition peut avoir un effet direct sur l'arrangement qui sera proposé aux créanciers.

Il est vrai que le plan que proposera Davie sera grandement tributaire du sort de sa demande pour disposer des actifs. Mais cela ne rend pas cette dernière demande irrecevable en soi. Il peut tout au plus s'agir d'un élément qui s'ajoute aux six facteurs non exhaustifs énoncés par le législateur à l'article 36(3) LACC et le tribunal revoit donc les circonstances de l'espèce en fonction des critères de l'article 36 LACC en soulignant le support de la plus grande partie des intéressés au dossier, y compris le principal créancier garanti, Investissement Québec, et le contrôleur ainsi que le fait que la vente à intervenir constitue sans doute la seule possibilité de survie de l' « entreprise » et la reprise des activités au bénéfice des employés, des fournisseurs et autres entreprises qui jouiront de retombées indirectes des activités du chantier maritime.

Quant à l'allégation d'un traitement inégal entre deux créanciers de même catégorie, le tribunal ne retient pas cet argument. Le choix du consortium d'assumer les contrats de construction de l'un des concurrents et non de l'autre ne constitue pas une décision de Davie et ne représente pas, en l'espèce, un traitement inégal de créanciers du même rang, par Davie. De plus, ce fait ne permet pas de refuser la demande de vente d'actifs.

Considérant sa revue des critères de l'article 36 LACC et considérant que l'approbation de la vente d'actifs, telle que requise par Davie, constitue l'unique espoir de relance du chantier naval ainsi que la possibilité de présenter aux créanciers de la compagnie un plan d'arrangement moins désavantageux que dans un contexte de faillite, le tribunal fait droit à la requête.

Chantiers Davie Inc. (Arrangement relatif à ), C.S. 200-11-019127-102, jugement du 21 juillet 2011, Juge Étienne Parent.

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