J.C. Penny Dispute with Bondholders Raises Eyebrows

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The new year has not been particularly comfortable for J.C. Penny Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP).  It has been getting into trouble with its debt holders and there have been rumblings that the company could default on its $2.97 billion bond debt. The latest in this agitation came just a couple of days ago,  when lawfirm Brown Rudnick issued a Notice of Default to JCP, stating that it represented a group of hedge fund creditors with a claim to 50 percent of J.C. Penny’s Debentures due in 2037. The claim amounts to $325.6 million or 11 percent of the total gross debt.

J.C. Penny Dispute with Bondholders Raises Eyebrows

J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP) vehemently denies the charge and trashes it as merit-less and invalid. All this is usual business, what makes it juicy is the speculation that Carl Icahn is behind this agitation. Why would Icahn be so villainous?

ZeroHedge cites several reasons (based purely on conjecture and imagination, so no liability here) that support Icahn’s involvement in this latest lawsuit filed by a bunch of lazy bondholders who took an year to team up and realize that they had been wronged. And of course Icahn hates Ackman and Ackman loves JCP and owns 18 percent of the company, so Icahn’s anger is not misplaced.

The so-called adhoc bondholders suing JCP include GSO Capital Partners and BlueCrest Capital who allege that JCP defaulted on its bonds when it signed a credit agreement in January 2012 and did not provide “equal and ratable security for the Debenture holders.” JCP offered inventory as collateral against a $1.5 billion credit line.

The recent catty exchange between Ackman and Icahn may have also not helped Ackman in plummeting Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) but it did prove that Ackman had better social skills than Icahn, the latter one just came off as a hothead who could not let go of his personal dislike of Ackman despite of losing the tussel in court.

His dislike of Ackman was all Icahn could talk about in his Jan 25 CNBC interview, neither Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) nor J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP) were discussed in the exchange. One argument that supports ZeroHedge’s theory of Icahn’s purported involvement here is the high trading activity 2037 Debentures witnessed on the day Icahn and Ackman were exchanging live pleasentries.

However, it is highly unlikely, as he himself admits, that he accumulated a big stake in one day. So this is all pure speculation and perhaps a little wishful thinking, I mean who wouldn’t want a replay of Jan 25? You don’t see billionaires fighting everyday. It would also be virtually impossible to confirm or deny Icahn’s involvement here unless he actually decides to declare open war against Ackman and JC Penney. Lawfirm Brown Rudnick did not respond to our request for comment on Icahn’s involvement.

Meanhwile JCP is being punished in market, it has lost more than 4 percent since the news of this lawsuit broke on February 4th.

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