Movers: Business success in the Southern Tier

Financial holding company hires corporate treasurer

NBT Bancorp announced that Mark Mershon has been hired as senior vice president and corporate treasurer.

In this role, Mershon will be responsible for identifying and managing the non-credit financial risks of the company, executing individual funding and investment strategies and developing risk management reports and policies.

We are very excited to have Mark join our team, NBT Bancorp Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Michael Chewens said. His knowledge of the industry, strategic thinking and experience will be an asset to the development of interest rate risk and portfolio management strategies for the corporation.

Mershon has over 35 years of experience in the financial services industry. Before joining NBT Bancorp, he was executive vice president and treasurer at National Penn Bancshares, Inc., in Allentown, Pa., where he developed net interest margin strategies and managed the companys asset and liability modeling and investment portfolio. Prior to that, he worked for United Community Banks, Inc., in Blairsville, GA, as senior vice president and treasurer and Mellon Financial Corporation/BNY Mellon Corporation in Pittsburgh, Pa., as portfolio division manager.

He earned his MBA at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and his bachelors degree at Williams College.

Health center joins network system

Scandal-hit Petrobras may issue earnings in April: JP Morgan

By Guillermo Parra-Bernal

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Petróleo Brasileiro SA, struggling with fallout from a corruption scandal and a decline in oil prices, could release audited financial information this month despite facing a perfect storm, analysts at JPMorgan Securities said on Tuesday.

In a client note, JPMorgan analysts led by Marcos Severine said the state-run company known as Petrobras could report third- and fourth-quarter earnings this month and book a one-off average asset impairment of 29.4 billion reais ($9.37 billion) due to a graft scheme that may have inflated the value of some assets.

Rio de Janeiro-based Petrobras, which is Latin Americas most indebted listed oil company, delayed the release of its results in the wake of accusations that it systematically overpaid for assets and work by contractors. The excess funds may have been funneled to political parties including President Dilma Rousseffs ruling Workers Party, prosecutors said.

According to the JP Morgan note, Petrobras perfect storm began last year with the launch of the corruption probe known as Operation Car Wash and intensified with the plunge in oil prices, Moodys Investors Services decision to cut the companys debt rating to below investment grade, and a tumbling Brazilian currency.

Petrobras has the ability to preserve cash and reduce debt, although questions remain as to whether the federal government – which controls almost half of the companys capital – will adopt the necessary measures to curb capital spending, JP Morgan said.

The journey back to health will take time and is likely to require a good bit of blood, sweat and tears to put the company back on track, the note said. At this point, we do not know how the parent may alter Petrobras course.

The report underscores the short-term headwinds facing Petrobras, once the crown jewel of Brazils economy but in recent years a symbol of the countrys financial problems, partly because of the Rousseff administrations meddling in the companys affairs.

At this moment, Severine and his team believe Petrobras is a binary call, with more short-term downside than upside risks, given the lack of visibility of the relevant themes. Although, at current prices, shares of the company might seem attractive, many potential drivers depend on government decisions, the note said.

Severine took over coverage of Petrobras with a neutral recommendation. He set price targets of 11 reais for the preferred shares of Petrobras

and $7 for Petrobras American common depositary receipts

.

($1 = 3.136 Brazilian reais)

(Editing by Paul Simao)

Sibyl Kempson Launches New Company With LET US NOW PRAISE SUSAN …

Abrons Arts Center and 7 Daughters of Eve Thtr. amp; Perf. Co. are pleased to present the world premiere of Sibyl Kempsons Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag (tonight, April 28-May 17), a musical meditation on the slippery nature of the photographic image.

After a decade of operating as a solo entity and collaborating with some of New Yorks performance luminaries, this premiere marks the launch of Kempsons own theater company, 7 Daughters of Eve Thtr. and Perf. Co. She describes this decision as an attempt to create a space, to explore performance narrative in a more feminine way.

Kempson, a graduate of Mac Wellmans and Erin Courtneys irreverent and innovative playwriting program at Brooklyn College, writes in a way that is both intuitive and saturated in conceptual rigor while exploring themes of the primordial and the uncanny. The production also marks the beginning of Kempsons two-year tenure as artist-in-residence at Abrons Arts Center.

Set in the South during the Dust Bowl,Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag is a story of an extended family of sharecroppers who are visited, interviewed, and photographed by two live-in reporters from the Big City and also, possibly, by an ancient Mesopotamian sage. An irrational musical contemplation of the ethical pitfalls of poetic journalism, Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag is inspired by Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by writer James Agee and photographer Walker Evans, as well as Sontags essay On Photography, the journals of Symbolist painter Odilon Redon, The NEW American Machinists Handbook, and the ancient Assyrian mythological seals in The Morgan Library and Museum, New York – plus a couple of Broadway musicals.

Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag features original music by Ashley Turba, choreography by David Neumann and performances by Rolls Andre, Becca Blackwell, Eleanor Hutchins, Robert Johanson, Tavish Miller, Gavin Price, Tanya Selvaratnam, Amanda Villalobos and Sarah Willis along with musicians Ellery Royston and Johnny Gasper.

Co-presented by Abrons Arts Center and 7 Daughters of Eve Thtr. amp; Perf. Co., performances of Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag will take place April 28-May 17 (see above schedule) at Abrons Arts Center (466 Grand St, Manhattan). Critics are welcome as of Thursday, April 30 at 7pm for an official press opening on Sunday, May 3. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at abronsartscenter.org or by calling 212.352.3101.

The creative team also includes Eryk Aughenbaugh amp; Tavish Miller (Stage Management/Dramaturgy), Jody McAuliffe (Dramaturgy), Suzanne Bocanegra (Set/Costumes), Sarah Lurie (Lighting) and Meredith Boggia (Producer).

This work was developed through the support of The Jerome Foundation, Abrons Arts Center/Henry Street Settlement, New Dramatists, Duke University and Sarah Lawrence College.

About the Artists:

Sibyl Kempsons (Writer/Director) plays have been presented in NYC, Austin, Omaha, Minneapolis, Bonn, Germany, Baltimore, and Rockville. She is a 2015 Artist-in-Residence at Abrons Arts Center, where her fledgling 7 Daughters of Eve Thtr. amp; Perf. Co. will premiere its inaugural production Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag in April 2015. USA Artists Rockefeller Fellowship, McKnight National Residency and Commission, Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation Commission, New Dramatists/Full Stage USA commission, and a National Presenters Network Creation Fund Award; individual funding from Jerome and Greenwall Foundations; MacDowell Colony Fellow, member of New Dramatists (17), NYTW Usual Suspect. MFA Brooklyn College. Sibyl teaches playwriting at Sarah Lawrence College. Her plays are published by 53rd State Press, PAJ, and PLAY: A Journal of Plays.

Ashley Turba (Composer) is a BMI member hailing from Philadelphia, PA and originally from Jacksonville, FL. She met Sibyl Kempson while originating the role of Erin in Richard Maxwells Showy Lady Slipper. She then collaborated with Kempson on a trilogy of early musicals includingSPARGEL TIME!, Industrialisation und Die Fuuml;tuuml;r, and The Wytche of Problymm Plantation. Turba is also a singer, proud AEA member and independent recording artist. Her work is supported by the Fleming foundation; as artist-in-residence at the Rosen House; and with additional resources provided by Devon Nickel. ashleyturba.com

David Neumann (Choreography) / Advanced Beginner Groups original work has been presented in New York at PS 122, New York Live Arts, The Kitchen, Central Park Summerstage (where he collaborated with John Giorno), Celebrate Brooklyn and Symphony Space (where he collaborated with Laurie Anderson) and The Whitney. ABG has also performed at the Walker Art Center, Alverno College, MASS MoCA and the American Dance Institute, among others. Neumann has been a featured dancer in the works of Big Dance Theater, Jane Comfort, Irene Hultman, Susan Marshall, Sally Silvers, Cathy Weiss and club legend, Willi Ninja. He was a member of Doug Varone and Dancers and an eight-year original member and collaborator with the Doug Elkins Dance Company, with whom he toured nationally and internationally. He continues to perform and choreograph for theater, opera and film working with such directors as: Hal Hartley, Laurie Anderson, Robert Woodruff, Lee Breuer, Peter Sellars, JoAnn Akalaitis, Sam Gold, Mark Wing-Davey, Daniel Sullivan, Les Waters and Molly Smith. Recent and upcoming projects include: The Total Bent by Stew, The Bacchae at the Delacorte Theater, and choreographing and performing solos and duets with Mikhail Baryshnikov. In previous years, he was a professor in the theater departments of: NYU, Barnard, and Yale. He is currently professor of theater at Sarah Lawrence College.

About the 7 Daughters of Eve Thtr. amp; Perf. Co. – Named for Brian Sykes theory of mitochondrial DNA, which posits that we are all descended along matrilineal lines from seven original mothers, 7 Daughters of Eve Thtr. amp; Perf. Co. will unearth and contemplate, in contexts of live performance, ritual and installation, places in human history where science, religion, and feminism intersect. Its primary guiding principles are to intuitively uncover new narrative structures, to interrogate perceptions of the civilized in relation to ideas and preconceptions of the barbaric, the sacred, the profane, the true, the ordinary, and the in/animate – multiplying the possibilities of meaning, fostering imaginative practice in all participants of the performance, inviting all to exercise alternate ways of knowing, and locating the signals and patterns of a deeper order.

About Abrons Arts Center – The Abrons Arts Center is the Obie award-winning performing and visual arts program of Henry Street Settlement. The Abrons supports the creation and presentation of innovative, multi-disciplinary work; cultivates artists in all stages of their practice with educational programs, mentorships, residencies and commissions; and serves as an intersection of engagement for local, national and international audiences and arts-workers.

Each year the Abrons offers over 250 performances, 12 gallery exhibitions and 30 residencies for performing and studio artists, and 100 different classes in dance, music, theater, and visual art. The Abrons also provides New York City public schools with teaching artists, introducing more than 3,000 students to the arts.

Council explores leasing public assets to reduce debt

THE Gladstone Aquatic Centre and Mount Larcom pool have been put out to tender to test the market interest as council shops for cheaper options.

Leasing council swimming pools is a cost saving measure other regional councils tapped into a long time ago.

Gladstone Regional Council is facing $160 million worth of debt and it has been looking to its neighbours for tips on how to save money.

Natural Resource Partners (NRP) Announces Plan to Strengthen Balance Sheet …

Natural Resource Partners LP (NYSE: NRP) announced today a long-term plan to strengthen its balance sheet, reduce debt and enhance liquidity in order to reposition the partnership for future growth. The plan consists of the following strategic goals and initiatives:

  • Improve consolidated Debt/Adjusted EBITDA from 4.9x at December 31, 2014 to 3.5x by the end of 2017;
  • Reduce NRPs quarterly distribution to $0.09/unit, a 75% decrease from the distribution paid with respect to the prior quarter that will (1) increase NRPs estimated distribution coverage ratio for 2015 to over 4.0x based on NRPs current guidance and (2) result in additional cash available for debt reduction of approximately $130 million annually;
  • Utilize excess cash to pay off approximately $500 million of debt by the end of 2017, including $41 million paid in the first quarter 2015;
  • Enhance and extend the partnerships liquidity profile with the establishment of a new NRP Operating $300 million revolving bank credit facility that will mature in October 2017 and replace NRP Operatings existing $300 million revolver that matures in August 2016; and
  • Increase focus on capital efficiency and pursue NRPs diversification strategy through organic growth of its aggregates, industrial minerals and oil and natural gas assets.

After several years of accelerated growth and diversification through acquisitions, we need to focus our attention on reducing our debt and improving our balance sheet, said Corbin J. Robertson, Jr., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. The Boards decision to decrease quarterly distributions to our unitholders was made after extensive consideration of NRPs liquidity and financial position, as well as the current market environment. Ultimately, the Board concluded that it is in the best interest of NRP to use a substantial portion of its distributable cash flow to pay down debt, implement a plan to improve its credit metrics and liquidity, and position NRP for long-term growth.

The distribution of $0.09 per common unit with respect to the first quarter of 2015 will be paid on May 14, 2015 to unitholders of record on May 5, 2015.

Debenture Bonds: An Uncommon Name for a Common Bond

Bonds get complicated, and the language doesnt help. Most of us think of coupons as a piece of paper you exchange for a discount on toilet paper, but in the world of bonds, a coupon is your interest payment.

Seemingly weird words dont stop there. There are hundreds names that describe bonds based on minute differences in credit ratings, interest rates, time to maturity, and collateral. With that in mind, lets look at the world of debenture bonds, a common type of bond with a not-so-common name.

What are debenture bonds?
The word debenture in debenture bonds refers to a bonds lack of collateral. Where companies often take on debt to buy real estate (mortgages), or put up collateral for a credit line, a debenture bond is a way to borrow without any specific collateral. The name refers to the fact that a debenture bond is backed only by the borrowers ability to repay.

Debenture bonds arent always described as debentures. For instance, US Treasury bonds are backed only by the governments ability to service and repay the debt, and are thus debenture bonds. But rarely is the term associated with US government debt. Likewise, most junk-rated bonds are debentures, as junk bonds are rarely backed by specific collateral, hence their low ratings and higher yields.

Whats it matter?
To be clear, debenture bonds arent necessarily high-risk bonds. In fact, the most credit-worthy companies issue these kinds of bonds simply because they can. It gives them the flexibility and protection to keep their assets unencumbered, making them available as collateral in the future, should lenders require it.

Despite having no specific collateral backing the bond, a debenture still enjoys the advantage of being high in a companys capital structure. In the event of a bankruptcy, debentures would be repaid after most secured lenders, but before stockholders. The debenture investors would simply split up the remaining asset value after other secured lenders are paid in full.

Altria is a good example of a company that finances itself with debentures. Because of its consistent cash flow generation — cigarette manufacturers make for a reliably profitable companies — it issues debentures to finance a substantial part of its balance sheet. It does so without any real effects on the interest rate it pays, because investors see its consistently profitable business as a good credit risk.

Likewise, Apple, one of the most cash-rich companies on earth, has recently used debenture bonds to finance dividends and stock repurchases. Its enviable cash position enables it to borrow at a very small premium to the rates the US government pays, despite the fact that its bonds do not have claim to a particular asset as collateral.

In short, most corporate and government bonds fit the mold of a debenture bond in true form. Its just more common that theyll be generically labeled as corporate or government bonds than the somewhat obscure, but correct name, debenture bonds.

University works to build student donor base

In December, Giving Blueday — a University fundraising event that generated more than $3 million, of which students raised $1 million, during a 24-hour period — devoted special attention to reaching student donors.

For the last five years, the University has tracked data on how students donate, as well as their knowledge of how the University collects and uses funds, namely through an annual survey administered by the Office of Development.

This year, the questions on the survey access student awareness of University fundraising, the impact of small donations and ongoing development events at the University — such as Giving Blueday and the University’s $4 billion fundraising campaign, Victors for Michigan.

Kat Walsh, director of student engagement for the Office of Development, said the survey is important because it helps them identify specific areas of focus to prompt student donations.

“There’s a difference between saying ‘I’m aware of that and I don’t want to participate’ and ‘I didn’t even know that that existed and I wish that I had,’ ” Walsh said.

Over the course of administering the survey, Walsh said she’s found that more students see the value in small donations, such as a $20 gift. However, she said the data also points to room for improvement, including educating students on the Universitys status as a non profit institution. Walsh said 40 percent of students believe the University is for profit.

She said the development team sees value in collecting the data because it helps them understand ways to better inform students on the importance of philanthropy.

“We know that a lot of students are unaware of the roles that private philanthropy plays at the University, and how private philanthropy impacts students experiences,” Walsh said. “It’s really important for us to understand what students are aware of, what they’re not aware of, what their opinions are because it’s important to us to develop programming that will help benefit students’ education and their involvement in philanthropy.”

During the Giving Blue Day fundraiser, students were encouraged to donate to University units, including student organizations, to receive matching gifts from private donors. About 80 student organizations fundraised more than $157,000.

The top five fundraisers were Dance Marathon, the Michigan Marching Band, the Medical School’s Student-Run Free Clinic, Alternative Spring Break and MUSIC Matters.

Though student donors may have been most prominently featured during Giving Blue Day, Walsh said student donors have long contributed to the University’s development efforts. Walsh’s job is to help student organizations fundraise, and in particular, help them appeal to potential student donors on campus.

“Donors range from undergrad to doctoral students, and are representative of the various passions that exist across the campus,” she said.

For many students, she said the incentive to donate stems from their interest in the work of the student organizations.

“Everyone can’t take care of patients themselves, but they can make a gift that will make that happen,” Walsh said. “They may not be able to go fix up houses in the inner city, but they can support an organization that can do that. That’s what all of our donors do: they make things happen, and our students realize that they can make things happen through philanthropy whether as donors or whether as fundraisers, and, in some cases, both.”

However, many organizations find it difficult to track the amount of student donations they receive each year because of the various ways that they raise money, in addition to the fact that most do not keep track of how much specifically students donate.

LSA junior Macauley Rybar, the external director of Dance Marathon, said the organization often faces a similar problem. Because of the way DMUM is set up, where dancers are personally responsible to meet an individual funding goal of $300, he said there is really no way to track who donates what amount.

In contrast, Giving Blueday provided them the unique opportunity to track donations because the student-donated funds were matched.

“The first time we received anything close to (trackable funds) was on Giving Blueday of this year, because we were able to track student donation due to the student matching funds available for student organizations,” Rybar said.

Some student organizations also allow students to donate directly to other students, as opposed to external causes or activities.

MUSIC Matters, founded in 2011, holds an annual charity concert each year as well as SpringFest. Together, the events raise money to not only bring in popular artists, but to give back to various aspects of the University community.

In their first year, the group raised $10,000 to donate to Mott Children’s Hospital. In their second year, they raised $50,000 to create a need-based scholarship for in-state students entering the University. For the past two years, the organization allocated donations toward the creation of a camp for underserved Detroit youth.

MUSIC Matters President Darren Appel, a Business senior, said the group employs a two-tiered approach: continuing to support the scholarship, while also supporting a separate cause each year.

“When you endow a scholarship at U of M, the money you donate goes into the investment fund at the University, and the interest made off of that gets donated each year,” Appel said. “The first year will be just one student, but our plan long-term is to keep donating. We’ll have a major cause each year for the concert, but then as we keep growing and making more money, we can keep dumping money into the fellowship each year, so it will keep growing.”

However, regardless of family wealth, many students report finding themselves without extra money to donate.

First-year Medical student Molly Laux, who heads outreach and public relations for the Student-Run Free Clinic, said the donations are even more meaningful when students with limited funds still choose to give back.

“Even when they are small donations, we feel really privileged to receive them,” she said. “I think that because of that, it makes us work very hard to make sure that student voices are heard in things that we do, and for that we always try to make sure that we can keep as many volunteer positions open as possible, get as many students in. We bring students in as interpreters sometimes. We understand that when students do give us that extra money that they maybe saved for a few days or a few weeks, that we really do our best to make sure that we can do something in return.”

Laux added that by donating their time as well, students have an enhanced chance to see the importance of their contributions.

“When the students are able to come in and kind of see where their money goes, they can see our patients and see how grateful they are for the services that we provide, Lauz said. Not only does that make them feel proud of the donation that they originally gave, but I think that gives them a greater incentive to donate more when they can.”

Most donations to the Student-Run Free Clinic go toward renting out the space for their medical center; the rest funds equipment, medications and other supplies.

The organization raised $13,528 on Giving Blueday. Laux said she attributed much of that to the work of the Office of Development, noting the ability to work both with Walsh’s team and another specifically for medical students.

“They’ve been such a great help,” Laux said. “(They) helped me figure out what the best ways of strategizing the posts, and she helped me find personal stories we could use, and helped me find the most effective means of transmitting information in time, drawing attention to our e-mails. They were completely fantastic.”

Business senior Kimberly Cui, finance and fundraising team leader for Alternative Spring Break, also noted the advantages of having access to Office of Development resources.

“(Walsh) and her team are definitely really helpful,” she said. “They’re really open to meet up with even student organizations about fundraising ideas and kind of the best way to fundraise. We’re definitely hoping to work more with them in the future.”

MUSIC Matters also works closely with the Office of Development.

“Our model is more teaching students how to fundraise as a whole,” Appel said. “We do a lot of fundraising at the University, we reach out to corporate sponsors, we have a lot of students learning how to make a pitch book, learning how to present an idea to a corporation, things like that.”

In the future, Walsh said her team is interested in continuing to work with organizations through initiatives like Giving Blueday. In this year’s version of the annual student survey, two questions were added specifically on Giving Blueday with the aim of improving involvement next year.

In addition, University representatives met with student organizations to garner feedback after the event.

“What we learned from our sessions with student orgs was they thought the energy of the day was really great,” Walsh said. “They felt that the training and the resources that we provided was really great, and they loved the challenges. Some of the things they felt we could improve on are, for instance, making sure that our training is available online, because they come and attend and they want to share it with members of their organizations.”

Cui also noted the importance of students developing a habit of donating early on.

“For us, it’s almost more important that students are giving,” Cui said. “We really value their donation, because when you start while you’re in college, you really care about the issue, you want to be active about that issue in the community. So for us, starting young, it shows that you’re passionate about the issue, you’re empowered to support programs that you believe in, and then we also believe that if you start now, the likelihood that you’ll continue to be involved in the future is a lot higher.”

Cui said the majority of ASB funds go toward the vehicles that are used on the trip, but the funds are also used to cover housing for volunteers as well as gas.

Appel said student donations not only play an important role in University development, but also provide chances for students to contribute to the University community.

“As a whole, there’s a really great opportunity for students too,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how much they donate, but being able to donate and give to a cause, I think it’s important for the University and it just leaves people with a good feeling.”

Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Giving Blueday raised $1 million.

NHL Playoffs: First Round Predictions; Calgary or Vancouver? Winnipeg or …

Theres always gonna be another mountain

Im always gonna wanna make it move

Always gonna be an uphill battle

Sometimes Im gonna have to lose

Aint about how fast I get there

Aint about whats waitin on the other side

Its the climb

– Miley Cyrus

Its a nice feeling, when you get an idea. And then you look at the stats, and they back your idea up.

I used to get that legitimized giddiness when Id write essays in university. Typically, youd just pick a conclusion to come to and then youd start doing your research – it was truly a great feeling when your work would support the conclusion you prematurely came to.

So heres to yesterday, where Im thinking, I dont think theres ever been a year where its so even in the NHLs playoffs from the Presidents Trophy winners to the 16th place team. And it turns out, historically thats basically true.

Never once in the past 35 years (which is the modern era, all things considered) has there been such a small point difference between 1st place (the New York Rangers) and 16th (the Calgary Flames). New York finished with 113 points, Calgary with 97. A relatively nonexistent cleft of 16 points.

(Last year, there was a 28-point gulf between the Boston Bruins and the Dallas Stars, for your reference.)

And Calgarys not the worst team in this playoff bracket, either. Many will throw the Canucks into that bonfire. Others the Pittsburgh Penguins, who only made the postseason because Boston was that much worse. The Flames are favoured by many in their first-round series against Vancouver, while the Winnipeg Jets (only two points better, in the second Wild Card spot) are favoured by many over the 1st-place Anaheim Ducks.

Thank the loser point. Thank the new division format. But playoff hockey is suddenly like a 16-person best-of-seven game of rock-paper-scissors. Maybe you miss the bureaucracy or the feudal system of old, or maybe you dont.

PREDICKIES!

New York Rangers – 1st in the Metropolitan, 1st in the NHL (113 points)

Pittsburgh Penguins – 2nd Wild Card, 3-5-2 in their last 10 (98 points)

Maybe this is a good thing for Sidney Crosby and crew. Right?

Maybe they needed a year to munch on the crusts of a humble pie. Maybe they need some perspective, after years of riding in on a beautiful white horse that attracted a lot of praise and a lot of their enemies ire. With nearly 100 points but a massive slip from the Easts top half, the Penguins are probably the most doubted team in the National Hockey League right now. Does that mean theyll do better when expectations are low? Does that mean theyre just waiting to pounce, Venus Fly Trap-style?

Could this really a bonus, that they dropped to the cusp of the Connor McDavid draw?

No. Of course not.

Rangers in 5.

**********

Montreal Canadiens – 1st in the Atlantic, 1st in Canada (110 points)

Ottawa Senators – 1st Wild Card, 2nd to Winnipeg in Canadians hearts (99 points)

Ill be honest: Its going to be impossible for me to ever see the Habs as the top-seed team theyre trying to convince us they are.

I know Carey Price is the best goalie in the world, at least right now. I know PK Subbans fun to watch. I know (the injured) Max Pacioretty is probably the most underrated player in the NHL and that Brendan Gallagher is the tallest short guy in the game. Im aware they deserve all their points and maybe even some more.

But when I look at the Canadiens, Im always going to see a vulnerable team. Im going to look at them like the rest of Canada looked at the Canucks a few years ago, as a delicious favourite to feast on. Thats how were all looking at Anaheim right now, by the way. (More on that below…)

But somebody tell Ottawa theyre the underdog. Because they have no idea, and I dont think theyre content with just making the playoffs.

Sens in 6

**********

Tampa Bay Lightning – 2nd in the Atlantic, 1st in total # of Steve Yzermans (108 points)

Detroit Red Wings – 3rd in the Atlantic, 1st in Former Greatness (100 points)

You know I – like you – have very little to say about this series. I just have a feeling of which team is going to win, and I know Steven Stamkos plays in Florida.

But I also know Mike Babcock coaches in Michigan, Pavel Datsyuk isnt slowing down (7 points in his last 5 games), Henrik Zetterbergs the best captain in the NHL, Gustav Nyquist is the high-flying X-factor, and some Medusa-like combination of Petr Mrazek and Jimmy Howard could probably be sewn together to stop a puck or two.

But, what the hell… Steven Stamkos.

Bolts in 7

**********

Washington Capitals – 2nd in the Metropolitan, 1st in the greater DC area (101 points)

New York Islanders – 3rd in the Metropolitan, 1st on Long Island (101 points)

Its time for John Tavares to win a playoff series, and its time for Alex Ovechkin to play for a Stanley Cup. Or at least, get a little closer to doing so.

Toss in New Yorks bulldog Kyle Okposo and Washingtons terminally underrated all-world playmaker Nicklas Backstrom, and youve got a pretty good two-headed fight to the finish.

But with guys like Ryan Strome, Anders Lee, Frans Nielsen, and Brock Nelson, plus others, the Isles supporting offensive cast is stronger and deeper. And even though they banked off the bumpers like a bowling ball down the lane to the playoffs, its not like Washingtons a world-beater either.

Isles in 6

**********

Anaheim Ducks – 1st in the Pacific, 1st in the West, 1st in Bra Size (109 points)

Winnipeg Jets – 2nd Wild Card, on their 5th Wind (99 points)

What does 1st in Bra Size mean? It means theyre top-heavy. Everyone loves Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, and nobody doubts they can win. They already have a Stanley Cup they shared in just their second NHL seasons, and they have two Olympic gold medals. And Ryan Kesler was an excellent addition to a team that looked, only 10 months ago, like it needed just one more piece to get over the hump.

If you told me in September that the Ducks would be the only California team to make the playoffs – that both LA and San Jose would have failed and fallen early – I would have first pulled the pipe out of your mouth, and then I would have rolled my eyes and walked away. I also would have told you Anaheim and Chicago would play in the Western Conference Final.

Now, Im not sure either will. In fact, Im not sure either will escape the first round.

Theres only a 10-point separation this year between the top team in the West (Anaheim) and their opening round opponent (Jets). Compare that to 2011, when the 8th-seed Hawks took the 1st-place Canucks to Game 7 overtime, and the jump was 20 points. Or last year, where Anaheim escaped in six games over Dallas with a 25-point advantage.

And Winnipegs not your average Wild Card. Theyre bigger, faster, and stronger than the Ducks. Theyre also going to have the loudest, most invested home crowd of any team in the NHL, and theyre playing for that crowd.

The Jets have also bounced back from repeated blows to their lineup this season, overcoming injuries to Evander Kane and Mathieu Perreault early and often, then Dustin Byfuglien and Bryan Little down the stretch, and finally they made the playoffs while Buff was serving a four-game suspension for trying to decapitate JT Miller. Winnipeg should have bowed out with grace a long time ago, and they never gave up – they never even leaned on a loss.

Its going to be the best series of the first round, with an outcome 28 years in the waiting.

Yes, Winnipeg last won a playoff series in 1987. Before I was born.

Jets in 7

**********

St. Louis Blues – 1st in the Central, 1st in a division that contains the Hawks, Wild, and Predators (109 points)

Minnesota Wild – 1st Wild Card, 6th in the Real Standings (100 points)

A loss in their final game meant the Wild dropped back into the bottom half of the Wests playoff picture, but dont worry, Twin Citizens – theres been no team hotter in the conference, all things considered, since Christmas.

Nobody should want to play the Wild. And they seem to have this deal with winning series under the thumb of other teams – Colorado really should have put them away last year but didnt, and the Minnesota team of 2004 became the first in NHL history to win two straight series after trailing 3-1 (first Colorado, then Vancouver).

Of course, 2004 has nothing to do with 2015. And St. Louis for once have resisted the feeling that Brian Elliott isnt good enough for them. The veteran goalie has been excellent this season doing battle with the young Jake Allen, all behind perhaps the deepest team in hockey, forwards-plus-defencemen-wise.

Neither team has a trump card: Zach Parise and Vladdy Tarasenko are the clubs most talented forwards, while Alex Pietrangelo and Ryan Suter cancel each other out. Both have no-name brand awesomeness in goal.

Its pretty even. And when its even, tie goes to the runner.

Blues in 7

**********

Vancouver Canucks – 2nd in the Pacific, 7th in Canadians Hearts (101 points)

Calgary Flames – 3rd in the Pacific, 1st in Red Miles (97 points)

Ah, finally. My zip code.

First, lets actually give these two clubs their credit: 101 and 97 points, for two teams that were no doubt predicted to miss the playoffs, perhaps by a ton, is an incredible accomplishment. And while both teams are probably seen as the Wests weakest remaining, dont start thinking either Vancouver or Calgary won these spots by default – they didnt just Plinko into their spots ahead of LA, San Jose, and Dallas.

They beat all three of them, and they surged at every moment they were supposed to fall away. Vancouver battled through injuries to everyone but the Sedins and Lack, whereas Calgary overcame a relatively lacklustre roster (supposedly) and a massive injury to Mark Giordano. They also beat Los Angeles with a critical 3-1 win to clinch.

These teams earned their spots.

Second, there seems to be some idea floating around that Calgarys inexperience will pull them down against Vancouver. Not sure why – experience means nothing in the first round. The Flames dont have to be Tom Brady to beat the Canucks; all they need to do is score a few timely goals and win four of seven games.

(The funny thing about experience is, one day you have none and the next day you have it all. Brady was a rookie the day before he won his first Super Bowl in 2002, and he was a champion the day after. Or Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, who won their first Stanley Cups in their third years. All Calgary needs to do to beat away their older judgers is beat Vancouver. Crazier things have happened in my bedroom.)

If Monahan-Gaudreau-Hudler outscore Henrik-Daniel-Burrows/Vrbata, Calgary probably wins the series.

And if it comes down to Game 7 – as these two franchises well know – itll be decided by a big goal and/or a big save, maybe or maybe not from the same team.

So, which one will it be?

Well, experience may not matter for Vancouver, in my opinion, but their roster is still superior. The Canucks are loaded up-top, with the twins and Vrbata. Below that, their depth is really quite astonishing, considering the Canucks finished with just 83 points in 2014. Burrows, Bonino, Higgins, Richardson, Matthias, Horvat, Kenins, and Hansen can all defend and put the puck in the net, and Zack Kassian could be a huge boost if he returns.

Then again, the Flames havent known theyre supposed to lose all season, and they certainly dont now.

And where I mentioned Vancouvers depth as their trump card, the flip could be proposed from Calgarys rancher fans – that their team has a Check Mate cancel-out player for every one of the Canucks. This Calgary team reminds me a lot of the 04 team, and of Vancouvers 94 team, actually. Not saying theyll go on a run to the Cup – just saying, theyre scary.

Although, they dont have an Iginla. Or a Kipper. And Bob Hartleys no Darryl Sutter… and that 04 series game down to Game 7 overtime.

You know what? I was gonna go with Calgary, legitimately.

But screw it, Canucks in 7.

(Its gotta be won at home.)

**********

Nashville Predators – 2nd in the Central, 1st in Collected Guitar Picks (104 points)

Chicago Blackhawks – 3rd in the Central, 1st in Regrettable Trades for Antoine Vermette (102 points)

Is Vermette Chicagos Aaron Boone?

The creative, two-way centre was a terrific trade deadline pick-up, it seemed, until he started playing for the Blackhawks. Hes no doubt a very good player, but he just hasnt found his place in Chicago – like Martin Havlat or Brian Campbell before him. He may even be scratched, and some are ripping Joel Quenneville for how hes handled a talented, 200-foot, do-anything forward.

Translation: Is Vermette actually failing, or is he being set-up to fail?

Well, nobody really cares, because Patrick Kanes back.

The leagues most dangerous scorer has missed seven weeks and will be tossed into the tumbling dryer with his team in full swing. The Hawks havent missed him – in the standings, at least – and managed to stay ahead of the pack in his absence.

Still, Kanes comeback will give Chicago the bump in many analysts minds, especially since the Blackhawks lost their final four games to finish the season. (Thats only slightly worse than the Predators, of course, who lost their final three games.)

Now, for Nashville…

Whats there to say, really, about a team hardly anyone outside of Tennessee gets to watch?

We know theyre good. Because theyre here. We know theyre built to roll as one, like a Carthage elephant pack. We know theyre good enough to beat Chicago, just maybe not good enough to beat them four times. And we know two names – Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne. The d-man and the goalie are maybe the two best players in this series, on their own – as wonderful as Kane and Jonathan Toews are, or are possible of being. Its really a battle between 1a, 1b, 1c, and 1d.

Plus, the Preds have home-ice advantage.

This basically comes down to whether you trust in Chicago to make their fourth long playoff run in six years – a pretty damn hard feat in todays meat-grinding NHL – or whether you trust in the Nashville team that showed up early and often this season.

Myself, Id wager the Cup on Chicago if I really had to. But I also think Nashville may be the pee-coloured antidote that sucks the Blackhawks depleted magic dry, which would be believable in a year where anythings happened.

Preds in 7.

**********

Stanley Cup Prediction: Tampa Bay

Its going to be a weird year, like 2012, where Westeros is left for dead and conquered by a bunch of tribes. All want the throne, and many have the game, but its unclear right now which of them could rule, if any.

The Lightning are the only team that brings a game no other team does, and if they get past Montreal they could easily snowball through the East – through whoever wins between Montreal and Ottawa, through a very good but beatable pair of New York teams – and over the last left standing in the West.

Ill put my chips on Tampa, and on Stamkos.

(*This post was originally published on White Cover Magazine…)

VIDEO: Devil Town – NHL Highlights

Chapter 11 Reform: Proposed ‘Adequate Protection’ Recommendation Hurts …

In December 2014, the American Bankruptcy Institute Commission to Study the Reform of Chapter 11 released its recommendations for amendment to the current Bankruptcy Code. If implemented, these recommendations would deeply impact secured lenders and their borrowers. Secured lenders’ concerns include limitations on, among other things, rolling up prepetition debt, liens on avoidance actions, and milestones in DIP financing agreements. While the bankruptcy bar has provided publications summarizing these concerns at a high level, it is now useful to examine individual recommendations more closely.  This article addresses the effect of one recommendation – the standard to be used in the calculation of adequate protection – on secured lending to retailers. As further explained below, if enacted, the Commission’s recommendation would severely disrupt the secured lending market in general, but may be even more problematic for borrowers in the retail space. Secured lenders would ultimately adapt to the new environment by underwriting loans that offer reduced incremental liquidity, higher pricing, and more restrictive structure.

Background

The ABI Commission’s recommendations include a new standard for calculating adequate protection at the commencement of a bankruptcy case. Specifically, the Commission recommends that the adequate protection required to safeguard a secured creditor’s interest be determined based on the “foreclosure value” of the collateral, defined as the net amount a secured creditor would realize upon a “hypothetical, commercially reasonable foreclosure sale of the secured creditor’s collateral under applicable non-bankruptcy law.” This method of calculation marks a departure from current practice. Although the Bankruptcy Code does not currently provide a specific standard, many courts apply standards such as “going concern value,” “reorganization value,” or “market value.” These standards are generally much higher than “foreclosure value.”

The new “foreclosure value” standard would disrupt the secured credit market, allowing debtors to more easily establish the adequate protection needed to access a secured lender’s cash collateral or to obtain post-petition financing with liens that are pari passu with, or senior to, a secured lender’s existing liens.  The Commission’s other recommendations do not mitigate this risk. For example, the proposal that a secured creditor should ultimately receive “reorganization value” for purposes of distributions would be of little help to a secured lender whose cash collateral and senior liens have already been diluted. After competing liens attach to the same asset, proceeds of the collateral may still be distributed at “reorganization value” – but now this value will be sliced apart and distributed among multiple creditors.

Lending to Retailers

The Commission’s adequate protection framework would be especially troublesome for retailers. These companies often have a capital structure that includes asset-based loans, in which inventory and other assets are pledged as collateral. Lenders carefully structure these loans so that collateral value always exceeds amounts outstanding. In the context of inventory, collateral value generally means “net orderly liquidation value” (NOLV). This value assumes that inventory is sold in a going-out-of-business (GOB) sale overseen by a bankruptcy court, instead of through a foreclosure sale under state law.  GOB sales generate significantly better recoveries than foreclosure sales. In a GOB sale, liquidators seek to maximize recovery by selling as much inventory as possible through the retail channel.  Liquidators are experts at using the retailer’s existing store base to drive sales. Only after the benefits of this channel are exhausted will liquidators look to sell inventory to wholesalers and other potential buyers. In contrast, lenders pursuing a foreclosure remedy would need to seize inventory and sell primarily through alternate channels.  While this framework may be sufficient for wholesalers, it ignores the obvious channel for liquidating a retailer’s inventory. A market for appraisals of retail inventory at “foreclosure value” does not even exist.  For these reasons, a world in which adequate protection is calculated at “foreclosure value” would be disruptive to secured lenders and the retailers who borrower from them.

Continued on Page 2…

North American Palladium looking to sell, reduce debtLOCAL

THUNDER BAY — The owner of an area mine is looking to reduce debt in order to sell.

North American Palladium, which owns Lac Des Illes, announced Thursday that its entered into an agreement with Brookfield Capital Partners to cut debt and increase liquidity before looking to sell the company.

Despite producing 45,600 ounces of palladium so far this quarter at Lac Des Iles, located around 90 kilometres Northwest of Thunder Bay, NAP says a decline in prices coupled with a weak Canadian dollar forced it to ask senior secure lenders for certain financial and other relief until August.

The full media release issued by North American Palladium:

TORONTO, ONTARIO–(Marketwired – April 15, 2015) – North American Palladium Ltd. (NAP) (TSX:PDL)(NYSE MKT:PAL) (the Company) announced today that, following discussions withBrookfield Capital Partners Ltd. (Brookfield), the Company has entered into an agreement with Brookfield aimed at significantly reducing the Companys debt and enhancing the Companys liquidity (the Recapitalization).
The Company has retained CIBC World Markets Inc. to act as its financial advisor in connection with the Recapitalization and to conduct a strategic review process to solicit interest in a sale of the Company. The Company has until June 30, 2015 to obtain a superior proposal to the Recapitalization, with closing to occur within a specified timeframe thereafter.
The Company has obtained covenant relief from its senior secured lenders in respect of certain financial and other covenants until August 15, 2015. Although the Company produced approximately 45,600 payable ounces of palladium in the first quarter of 2015, covenant relief was required as a result of a decline in palladium prices and weakening of the Canadian dollar, and lower production volumes in March combined with higher expenses, which impacted the minimum shareholders equity and leverage ratio covenants.
The Company has also entered into an immediately available US$25 million interim credit facility with Brookfield. NAP is continuing normal business operations at its Lac des Iles mine and the Companys obligations to employees, trade creditors, equipment leases and suppliers will not be affected by the Recapitalization.
If no superior transaction emerges from the strategic review process by June 30, 2015, the terms of the Recapitalization will be as follows:
bull; Conversion of all amounts owing to Brookfield into equity, resulting in Brookfield owning common shares representing 92% of the common shares outstanding on a fully-diluted basis after giving effect to the Recapitalization;
bull; Conversion of the 2012 and 2014 convertible debentures into equity, resulting in holders of convertible debenture owning common shares representing in aggregate 6% of the common shares outstanding on a fully diluted basis after giving effect to the Recapitalization;
bull; Existing holders of common shares will own 2% of the post-Recapitalization common shares outstanding on a fully-diluted basis;
bull; The Companys outstanding warrants and options will be terminated;
bull; After completion of the Recapitalization, the Company will undertake a $50 million rights offering to raise equity, pursuant to which all shareholders at that time will be able to participate;
bull; The $50 million rights offering will be backstopped by Brookfield and other parties; and
bull; Employees, trade creditors, equipment leases and suppliers will not be affected.
The terms of the Recapitalization are outlined in an agreement the Company has entered into with Brookfield. A copy of the Recapitalization term sheet has been filed with regulators and is available on SEDAR at www.sedar.com and EDGAR at www.edgar.com.
The Recapitalization is subject to receipt of customary approvals, including convertible debenture holder and shareholder approval, as well as customary closing conditions. A holder of convertible debentures holding approximately 54% of the Companys convertible debentures has executed an agreement to support the Recapitalization.
The sale process and Recapitalization plan represent the best alternatives available at this time to preserve substantial value in the assets and operations of the Company, and to pursue longer-term growth and expansion opportunities at LDI, said Phil du Toit, President and CEO. We believe decreasing the debt burden and strengthening the capital structure is essential for the Companys future.
Technical Information and Qualified Persons
Mr. James Gallagher , the Companys Chief Operating Officer and a Qualified Person under National Instrument 43-101, has reviewed and approved all technical items disclosed in this news release.
About North American Palladium
NAP is an established precious metals producer that has been operating its Lac des Iles mine (LDI) located in Ontario, Canada since 1993. LDI is one of only two primary producers of palladium in the world, offering investors exposure to palladium. The Companys shares trade on the NYSE MKT under the symbol PAL and on the TSX under the symbol PDL.
Cautionary Statement on Forward-Looking Information
Certain information contained in this news release constitutes forward-looking statements within the meaning of the safe harbor provisions of Canadian securities laws and the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. All statements other than statements of historical fact are forward-looking statements. The words potential, preliminary, believe, forecast, will, anticipate, expect, would, could, estimate and similar expressions identify forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements in this news release include, without limitation: information pertaining to the Companys strategy, plans or future financial or operating performance, such as statements with respect to the Companys strategic review process, the Companys ability to consummate a strategic transaction, projected production, operating and capital cost estimates, project timelines, mining and milling rates, cash flows, projected grades, mill recoveries, metal price and foreign exchange rates, and other statements that express managements expectations or estimates of future performance. Forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risk factors that may cause the actual results to be materially different from those expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. Such risks include, but are not limited to: the risk that the LDI mine may not perform as planned, the possibility that commodity prices and foreign exchange rates may fluctuate, the possibility that the Company may not be able to generate sufficient cash to service its indebtedness and may be forced to take other actions, and uncertainty regarding the ability to consummate the Recapitalization. For more details on these and other risk factors see the Companys most recent Annual Information Form/Form 40-F on file with Canadian provincial securities regulatory authorities and the SEC.
Forward-looking statements are also based upon a number of factors and assumptions that, while considered reasonable by management, are inherently subject to significant business, economic and competitive uncertainties and contingencies. The factors and assumptions contained in this news release include, but are not limited to: that the Company will be able to consummate the Recapitalization or other strategic transaction on the terms described in this news release, the Companys ability to continue normal business operations at its Lac des Iles mine, that metal prices and exchange rates between the Canadian and United States dollar will be consistent with the Companys expectations, that there will be no significant disruptions affecting operations, and that prices for key mining and construction supplies, including labour, will remain consistent with the Companys expectations. The forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance. The Company disclaims any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, events or otherwise, except as expressly required by law. Readers are cautioned not to put undue reliance on these forward-looking statements.