Revealed: Slater & Gordon Limited updates on debt battle

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Embattled law firm Slater & Gordon Limited (ASX: SGH) recently filed company accounts for its UK operations, which included an update as to the firm’s attempts to renegotiate its Syndicated Facility Agreement (SFA) with its banking creditors National Australia Bank Ltd (ASX: NAB) and Westpac Banking Corp (ASX: WBC).

As at December 31 2015 the group had drawings of $783 million on its debt facilities versus a limit of $850 million, with a net debt position of around $741 million and available liquidity of around $119 million.

However, the big question is whether the group can buy itself enough time and headroom with its creditors to reverse a disastrous first half of financial year 2016 operating performance that saw a cash outflow of $83.3 million.

The accounts and opinions filed at the UK’s Company House are signed as at March 31 2016 by the auditor Ernst and Young and Slater & Gordon’s board with a mixed message as to the future of the group.

The firm updated that, inter alia, “proposals have been provided to the lenders in line with the SFA….The Directors, having given consideration to the current financial forecasts for the Group and the Company, the engagement with the banking syndicate and its financial advisers, the comprehensive review, and the performance improvement programmes being implemented by management, consider the going concern basis of preparation is appropriate for the period to March 31 2017“.

This may seem positive on first blush given it is based on forecasts and the auditor has signed off on it, however, the going concern sign-off is only until March 31 2017 – the date at which Slater & Gordon’s creditors can call in its debt obligations if the law firm cannot reverse its financial performance or negotiate further breathing room in its SFA by 30 April 2016.

The firm’s future beyond March 31 2017 remains somewhat up in the air then, with shares likely remain to volatile in the short term, as it is difficult to know whether the banks will agree to a rescue plan that could involve the extension of more credit.

Slater & Gordon remains in some deep dodo, and serious investors should consider a fast-growing, profitable, tech business heading in the opposite direction…..such as the one identified below…

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Motley Fool contributor Tom Richardson owns shares of Slater & Gordon Limited. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

You can find Tom on Twitter @tommyr345

We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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