Williams, 2002 Case Study Essay

Words: 1926
Pages: 8

Fin. 5312—100 Corporate Finance
Professor Megginson
February 17, 2013


Case 2: Williams, 2002


In 2001, the Tulsa, Oklahoma, Williams Company was in financial distress. The primarily energy-industry company was struggling with a shrinking energy trading market, which was marked by distressed entities such as Enron’s broadband unit and Global Crossing. Williams also suffered internally with a floundering telecommunications division and a plummeting stock price. These issues led credit rating agencies Moody’s and
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Equity investors want the company to take a certain amount of risk so they have the chance of seeing large returns. Debt investors want a company to be more conservative to protect the issuer and to ensure that the company will repay its debts.
Like many other companies, Williams’ top priority, however, is to maximize stockholder wealth. This creates a dilemma in a debt offering. Berkshire Hathaway and Lehman Brothers therefore use debt covenants to limit the amount of risk Williams can take in the hopes that the company’s actions will not endanger loan repayment.
Collectively, these covenants outline the rights of the lenders and restrictions upon Williams in regards to the loan. When a company does not live up to its debt covenant, it breaches the contract. In theory, such action would trigger automatic payment to creditors. In reality, however, many companies default because they are not in good financial health and thus cannot pay. Therefore, breach of covenant usually means that the two parties renegotiate the terms of the debt, often calling for higher interest rates or other incentives for the issuer to allow Williams more time to pay.
Williams’ financial problem
During the first half of 2002, Williams suffered a number of financial difficulties. The company’s total cash flow decreased by 680.22 percent as compared with 2001. During the year, Williams’ only net positive cash inflows came from financing, which netted the company $1.061 billion. In