Is it all over for Slater & Gordon Limited?

Slater & Gordon Limited (ASX: SGH) has until the end of the month to convince its bankers to amend its debt facilities, or else it could all be over for the embattled law firm.

Slater’s fall from grace over the last 12 months or so has been savage. From a high of $8.07, the shares lost as much as 97.2% to a low of just 22.7 cents. They’re up just over 4% today to 25.5 cents, but any movements now appear to be based on speculation more than anything else.

After all, the group hasn’t provided investors with any concrete news regarding the progress of the discussions being held with its banks, and whether it is actually capable of surviving for more than a year (although it did say it was confident that the going concern basis of preparation for its first-half results was appropriate).

Indeed, Slater & Gordon has endured a tumultuous year, plagued by the highly controversial acquisition of Quindell PLC’s Professional Services division in the United Kingdom (which resulted in an $814.2 million impairment during the latest half) and two investigations into its accounting practices.

To top it off, proposed changes to personal injury laws in the United Kingdom also threaten to reduce the need for lawyers in the country.

At 31 December, 2015, Slater & Gordon had $793.3 million debt on its balance sheet compared to $51.9 million in cash and cash equivalents. Meanwhile, there are also the weak cash flows from operations to worry about, the questionable decisions by its management and its waning growth prospects.

All in all, it’s hardly surprising that Slater & Gordon’s banking syndicate, led by National Australia Bank Ltd. (ASX: NAB) and Westpac Banking Corp (ASX: WBC), has demanded to see a viable plan to restructure the business to allow it to repay those debts.

If one is not presented by the end of April, or if the banks are not happy with that plan, they can demand full repayment by 31 March 2017 – less than 12 months away. That would be an impossible task, considering Slaters experienced an $83.3 million outflow of cash from operations in 2015. Investors wouldn’t be willing to cough up much capital either, considering how poorly the business has performed since their last capital raising.

Indeed, Slater & Gordon’s share price may have risen 4.1% today, and it may jump even further if its lenders do agree to new terms. However, it is an extremely risky bet, and one that long-term Foolish investors would be wise to avoid.

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Motley Fool contributor Ryan Newman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 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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