Two investors who hold a large amount of Alleco Inc.'s debt securities are raising objections to the Cheverly company's plan to transfer $105 million in debt to the buyer of Alleco's Service America Corp. subsidiary.
The objections are the latest problem to befall Alleco in its efforts to sell Service America, the company's last remaining operating subsidiary.
Alleco yesterday asked a Minneapolis court to rule on the debt-transfer plan. The request came after the two investors complained to First Trust Co. Inc. of Minneapolis -- the trustee for the debt -- that Alleco should not be relieved of the responsibility for principal and interest payments on the debt.
Alleco officials said they went to court on the matter to forestall the investors -- who were not identified -- from filing a suit of their own. The company did not say how much debt the investors held, but said the amount was "significant."
Alleco recently revised the terms of the sale of Service America to Servam Corp. by changing the terms of the contract food-service company from $450 million in cash to $345 million in cash and the assumption of $105 million of the company's outstanding debt. Financial analysts called the change a positive move because it made it easier for Servam -- a group of New York investment bankers and senior management of Service America -- to come up with the loan it needed to buy the division.
Alleco officials said they filed suit in Minneapolis yesterday after First Trust declined to issue an agreement that would confirm that Alleco would no longer be responsible for the debt, which is represented by $105 million worth of subordinated debentures due in 2010 with an annual interest rate of 9.5 percent.
Alleco -- formerly Allegheny Beverage Corp., a diversified services company -- has in the past year sold all of its divisions except Service America after stumbling under debts of more than $200 million. The company is under intense pressure to finalize the sale of Service America so that it can pay off its remaining loans.
The first of those loans, a $15 million revolving credit line, was originally due Oct. 31. However, the group of banks that holds the company's loans agreed to extend the due date until Dec. 31.
Failure to obtain a quick resolution of the subordinated debt question could put the company in jeopardy once again. "If they're not able to transfer the debt liability to help finance the sale, it would put the whole deal back up in the air," said Richard Jones, an analyst with the Washington brokerage firm Johnston, Lemon & Co.
However, Alleco officials said they were willing to go forward with the deal whether or not the court rules on the issue.
If the sale is not completed before the company's debt comes due, company officials have said, Alleco will not be able to pay its loans, which could force it into bankruptcy.
The financial services firm Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co. has provided Alleco with an opinion that whether or not it is released from the debt payment obligation of the debentures, the proposed deal with Servam is a fair one.
Alleco's annual meeting of stockholders, which has been adjourned several times, is scheduled to reconvene at 2 p.m. today at its headquarters.