With its top-line and operating results on the upswing, Rite Aid Corp. has moved to refinance debt.

Rite Aid, refinance debt, drug chain, senior unsecured notes, tendor offer, unsecured notes, debt maturities, Brooks/Eckerd, debt load, refinancing plan, Fitch Ratings, Russell Redman

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Rite Aid implements plan to refinance debt

February 27th, 2012

CAMP HILL, Pa. – With its top-line and operating results on the upswing, Rite Aid Corp. has moved to refinance debt.

The drug chain this month announced a plan to issue $481 million in senior unsecured notes due in 2020 to help fund a tender offer to buy $459 million of its 8.625% senior notes due in 2015.

Rite Aid said it would call any of the notes not tendered for redemption and use the proceeds from the offering of the 9.25% senior notes due in 2020, plus cash, to help pay for the purchase of the notes maturing in 2015. The tender offer expires March 13.

Rite Aid’s issuance of unsecured notes signals a positive step as it begins to address key debt maturities, according to financial analysts. They noted that Rite Aid hasn’t issued unsecured notes since its acquisition of over 1,800 Brooks/Eckerd stores in 2007. That deal left Rite Aid with a heavy debt load, and amid a difficult integration the retailer struggled with net losses and weak sales before recent sales gains and improved cost controls pared its quarterly losses and lifted operating results.

On the day Rite Aid unveiled the refinancing plan, Fitch Ratings reiterated its issuer default rating of B- and negative rating outlook for the chain in assigning a CCC/RR5 rating to the unsecured notes due in 2020.

“In the next couple of years Rite Aid will have to address a series of significant debt maturities that will occur between 2014 and 2016, in an aggregate amount of $2.5 billion post this refinancing. To the extent that Rite Aid successfully addresses upcoming debt maturities and sustains stable to positive same-store sales and EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization] trends, Fitch would resolve the negative outlook,” the rating agency stated. “The company is also highly dependent on favorable credit market conditions to get this magnitude of refinancings completed, given modest free cash flow generation.”

In the fall Fitch cited unsecured debt — about $1 billion of unsecured notes due in 2015 — as a reason for downgrading Rite Aid’s rating outlook from stable to negative, despite noting that the chain improved its same-store sales and EBITDA over the previous four quarters.

“Most debt refinancing activity since 2008 has been on a secured basis. The company last issued unsecured notes in May 2007 as part of the Brooks/Eckerd Pharmacy acquisition financing, besides $150 million 8.5% convertible notes issued in May 2008,” Fitch stated in a retail sector report earlier this month.

“Even though the collateral suggests comfortable recovery for secured lenders,” Fitch said in the report, “secured lenders in 2014 may not want to go beyond the maturities on the unsecured paper, creating the need for more comprehensive refinancing over the next couple of years.”