SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
x ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d)
OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2016
¨ TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15 (D) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from to
Commission file number: 814-01035
NEWTEK BUSINESS SERVICES CORP.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
(State or other jurisdiction of
incorporation or organization)
1981 Marcus Avenue, Suite 130 Lake Success, New York
(Address of principal executive offices)
Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (212) 356-9500
Securities Registered Pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Name of Each Exchange
Title of Each Class
on Which Registered
Common Stock, par value $0.02 per share
Nasdaq Global Market
7.50% Notes due 2022
Nasdaq Global Market
7.00% Notes due 2021
Nasdaq Global Market
Securities Registered Pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes ¨ No x
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes ¨ No x
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant: (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the past 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports) and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes x No ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate website, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (Section 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files). Yes x No ¨
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K (Section 229.405 of this chapter) is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. x
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company (all as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).
Large accelerated filer
Smaller reporting company
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes ¨ No x
The aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates of the registrant was approximately $156,330,000 as of the last business day of the registrant’s second fiscal quarter of 2016, based on a closing price on that date of $12.72 on the Nasdaq Global Market. For the purposes of calculating this amount only, all directors and executive officers of the Registrant have been treated as affiliates.
As of March 10, 2017 there were 17,217,474 shares issued and outstanding of the registrant’s Common Stock, par value $0.02 per share.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the registrant’s definitive Proxy Statement relating to the registrant’s 2017 Annual Meeting of Shareholders, to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission within 120 days following the end of the Company’s fiscal year, are incorporated by reference in Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K as indicated herein.
NEWTEK BUSINESS SERVICES CORP. AND SUBSIDIARIES
TABLE OF CONTENTS
On November 12, 2014, Newtek Business Services, Inc. merged with and into Newtek Business Services Corp., a newly-formed Maryland corporation, for the purpose of reincorporating in Maryland (the “Merger”), and thereafter filed an election to be regulated as a business development company (“BDC”) under the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended (the “1940 Act”) (referred to herein as the “Conversion” or “BDC Conversion”). All subsidiaries and controlled portfolio companies (as defined below) became the property of Newtek Business Services Corp. as part of the Merger. Except as otherwise noted, the terms “we,” “us,” “our,” “Company” and “Newtek” refer to Newtek Business Services, Inc. prior to the Conversion and its successor, Newtek Business Services Corp. following the Conversion.
On October 22, 2014, we effectuated the 1-for-5 reverse stock split (the “Reverse Stock Split”). On November 18, 2014 we completed an offering of 2,530,000 shares of our common stock at an offering price of $12.50 per share for total gross proceeds of $31,625,000. Unless otherwise indicated, the disclosures in this annual report on Form 10-K give effect to the Conversion and Reverse Stock Split.
ITEM 1. BUSINESS.
We are an internally managed non-diversified closed-end management investment company that has elected to be regulated as a BDC under the 1940 Act. We have also elected to be treated as a regulated investment company (“RIC”) under Subchapter M of the Internal Revenue Code, as amended (the “Code”) for U.S. federal income tax purposes, beginning with our 2015 tax year. We were formed to continue and expand the business of Newtek Business Services, Inc. We expect that our investments will typically be similar to the investments we made prior to our reincorporation.
As a BDC, our investment objective is to generate both current income and capital appreciation primarily through loans originated by our small business finance platform and our equity investments in certain portfolio companies that we control.
We are an internally managed BDC that is a leading national non-bank lender that provides, together with our controlled portfolio companies, a wide range of business services and financial products under the Newtek® brand to the small- and medium-sized business (“SMB”) market. Newtek’s products and services include: Business Lending including U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) 7(a) and 504 lending, Electronic Payment Processing, Managed Technology Solutions (Cloud Computing), eCommerce, Accounts Receivable and Inventory Financing, The Secure Gateway, The Newtek Advantage®, personal and commercial Insurance Services, Web Services, Data Backup, Storage and Retrieval, and Payroll and Benefits Solutions to SMB accounts nationwide across all industries. We have an established and reliable platform that is not limited by client size, industry type or location. As a result, we believe we have a strong and diversified client base across every state in the U.S. and across a variety of different industries. In addition, we have developed a financial and technology based business model that enables us and our controlled portfolio companies to acquire and process our SMB clients in a very cost effective manner. This capability is supported in large part by NewTracker®, our patented prospect management technology software which is similar to but we believe is better than the system popularized by Salesforce.com. We believe that this technology and low cost business model distinguishes us from our competitors.
We focus on serving the SMB market, which we estimate to be over 27 million businesses in the U.S. We believe that these businesses have historically been underserved by traditional financial institutions and typically lack the capital resources to build a competitive business and marketing infrastructure on their own. Further, in today’s economic climate, we believe SMBs have particular difficulty obtaining capital from traditional lending sources. While we do not compete directly with alternative online lenders such as The Lending Club, Prosper.com, OnDeck Capital, Inc. and Kabbage Inc., we do provide financing solutions as an alternative to traditional lending. We believe there is significant demand for such alternative financing among SMBs. Our lending solutions and our controlled portfolio companies’ outsourced business solutions help clients manage and grow their businesses and compete effectively in today’s marketplace. We obtain our customers through referrals from various business partners, such as banks, insurance companies, credit unions and other affinity groups, as well as through our own direct sales force and advertising campaigns. We source, acquire and process SMB customers in a cost effective manner without reliance on high cost sales staff and time consuming application processes.
In lending, we believe we are a leading capital provider to SMBs based on our loan volume. We originate loans through a variety of sourcing channels and, through a disciplined underwriting process, seek to achieve attractive risk-weighted returns. Our multi-faceted relationships with certain borrowers allow us to closely monitor their credit profile and take an active role in managing our investment. Further, our lending capabilities coupled with the broad outsourced business solutions of our controlled portfolio companies create attractive cross-selling opportunities within our client base. We believe our business model creates powerful network effects which will help drive growth and operating leverage in our business. In addition, our
See accompanying notes to these consolidated financial statements
SBA loans are structured so that the government guaranteed portion can be rapidly sold, which, based on our historic ability to securitize the unguaranteed portions and assuming the continuation of current market conditions, allows us to quickly recover our principal and earn excess capital on each loan, usually in less than a year. We may in the future determine to retain the government guaranteed or unguaranteed portions of loans pending deployment of excess capital. From 2012 through December 31, 2016, we have consistently been the largest non-bank SBA 7(a)lender and currently are the seventh largest SBA 7(a) lender in the U.S. based on dollar lending volume.
Our proprietary and patented technology platform, The Newtek Advantage®, which we make available to our controlled portfolio companies enables them to provide clients with a real-time management solution that organizes all of a business’ critical transaction and economic, eCommerce and website traffic data on a smartphone, tablet, laptop or personal computer. This technology provides critical consumer and marketing intelligence, including data mining, and provides a range of differentiated solutions and analytical tools that may be easily customized and integrated within their clients’ existing business processes. It also provides clients with seamless connectivity to a payment and managed technology infrastructure that is secure, fully compliant and regularly updated with the latest capabilities, services and functionalities. The platform is scalable to facilitate growth and meet the needs of new clients and consists solely of cloud-based offerings.
Newtek and its controlled portfolio companies all use NewTracker®, our patented and proprietary technology for receiving, processing and monitoring prospective customers. This enables Newtek and its portfolio companies to acquire SMB customers in a cost effective manner as it is all accomplished by skilled staff using state of the art technology without the need for high cost sales staff or applications processors. It also permits our referral partners to have a real time window into the back office processing of their referrals given. The software automatically pre-populates any necessary forms or applications so the processing is efficient and also cost effective. Finally, it also identifies opportunities for the cross-sale of other Newtek branded products or services.
Small Business Finance Platform
Our portfolio consists of guaranteed and unguaranteed non-affiliate loan investments that were made through our small business finance platform, comprised of Newtek Small Business Finance, LLC (“NSBF”), a nationally licensed SBA lender. NSBF originates, sells and services SBA 7(a) loans made to qualifying SMBs, which are partially guaranteed by the SBA. The small business finance platform also includes CDS Business Services, Inc. d/b/a Newtek Business Credit Solutions (“NBC”), a controlled portfolio company, which provides receivables financing, inventory financing and health care receivables financing, and management services to SMBs, which may obtain $10,000 to $2,000,000 per month through the sale of their trade receivables. In addition, NBC funds SBA 504 loans which provide financing of fixed assets such as real estate or equipment. Small Business Lending, LLC d/b/a Newtek Small Business Lending (“SBL”), a wholly owned portfolio company, engages in third party loan servicing for SBA and non-SBA loans. An additional wholly owned portfolio company, ADR Partners d/b/a banc-serv Partners, LLC (“BSP”), provides lending institutions with outsourced solutions for the entire SBA lending process, including credit analysis, structuring and eligibility, packaging, closing compliance and servicing.
We intend to continue to expand our small business finance platform primarily by expanding senior secured lending through NSBF. NSBF is one of 14 SBA licensed Small Business Lending Companies that provide loans nationwide under the SBA 7(a) loan program. NSBF has received Preferred Lenders Program (“PLP”) status, a designation whereby the SBA authorizes SBA lenders, based on their record with the SBA and proficiency in processing and servicing SBA-guaranteed loans, to place SBA guarantees on loans without seeking prior SBA review and approval. PLP status allows NSBF to serve its clients in an expedited manner since it is not required to present applications to the SBA for concurrent review and approval. We believe NSBF's SBA license, combined with NSBF's PLP designation, provides us with a distinct competitive advantage over other SMB lenders that have not overcome these significant barriers-to-entry in our primary loan market. NSBF originated approximately $242,496,000 of SBA 7(a) loans during 2015 and approximately $309,147,000 during 2016. We believe that we will continue to be introduced to a variety of high-quality investment opportunities through our existing loan sourcing channels and our controlled portfolio companies’ relationships with their clients, and our status as a BDC which helps fuel the growth of our loan portfolio by providing us with better access to lower-cost capital.
The SBA is an independent government agency that facilitates one of the nation’s largest sources of SMB financing by providing credit guarantees for its loan programs. Under the SBA’s 7(a) lending program, a bank or other lender such as NSBF underwrites a loan between $50,000 and $5,000,000 for a variety of general business purposes based on the SBA’s guidelines and the SBA provides a partial guarantee on the loan. Depending on the loan size, the SBA typically guarantees between 75% and 90% of the principal and interest due. The recoveries and expenses on the unguaranteed portions of these loans are shared pari passu between the SBA and the lender, which substantially reduces the loss severity on the unguaranteed portion of a loan for SBA 7(a) loan investors. SBA 7(a) loans are typically between five and 25 years in maturity, four to five years in duration and bear interest at the prime rate plus a spread from 2.25% to 2.75%. Since the guaranteed portions of SBA 7(a) loans carry
the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, lenders may, and frequently do, sell the guaranteed portion of SBA 7(a) loans in the capital markets, hold the unguaranteed portion and retain all loan servicing rights.
NSBF has a dedicated capital markets team that sells the guaranteed portions of its SBA 7(a) loans and sells or securitizes the unguaranteed portions of its SBA 7(a) loans. Historically, NSBF has sold the guaranteed portions of its originated SBA 7(a) loans shortly after origination and retained the unguaranteed portions until accumulating sufficient loans for a securitization. Since inception, NSBF has sold SBA guaranteed portions of SBA 7(a) loans at premiums ranging from 106% to 120% of par value and typically any portion of the premium that was above 110% of par value was shared equally between NSBF and the SBA. Since December 2010, NSBF has maintained its securitization program for unguaranteed portions of its SBA 7(a) loans and has successfully completed seven securitization transactions with Standard & Poor’s AA or A ratings and attractive advance rates of approximately 70% of par value. NSBF intends to complete additional securitizations in the future which may be on comparable although not necessarily identical terms and conditions. We may determine to retain the government guaranteed or unguaranteed portions of loans, pending deployment of excess capital.
NSBF’s senior lending team has focused on making smaller loans, approximately $1,000,000 or less, in order to maintain a diversified pool of loans that are dispersed both geographically and among industries, which limits NSBF’s exposure to regional and industry-specific economic downturns. Specifically, as of December 31, 2016, NSBF’s loan portfolio consisted of 1,227 loans originated across 49 states in 77 different industries as defined by the North American Industry Classification System (“NAICS”). The following charts summarize NSBF’s mix of investment concentrations by industry and geography as of December 31, 2016 (in thousands):
Distribution by NAICS Code Description
NAICS Code Description
Number of Loans
Aggregate Balance ($)
Average Balance ($)
Percentage of Balance
Food Services and Drinking Places
Amusement, Gambling, and Recreation Industries
Ambulatory Health Care Services
Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services
Repair and Maintenance
Specialty Trade Contractors
Merchant Wholesalers, Durable Goods
Distribution by State
Number of Loans
Aggregate Balance ($)
Average Balance ($)
Percentage of Balance
NSBF evaluates the credit quality of its loan portfolio by employing a risk rating system that is similar to the Uniform Classification System, which is the asset classification system adopted by the Federal Financial Institution Examinations Council. NSBF’s risk rating system is granular with multiple risk ratings in both the Acceptable and Substandard categories. Assignment of the ratings are predicated upon numerous factors, including credit risk scores, collateral type, loan to value ratios, industry, financial health of the business, payment history, other internal metrics/analysis, and qualitative assessments. Risk ratings are refreshed as appropriate based upon considerations such as market conditions, loan characteristics, and portfolio trends. NSBF’s gross SBA loans by credit quality indicator are as follows:
Number of Loans
Aggregate Balance ($)
Average Balance ($)
Percentage of Balance
Risk Rating 1 - 4
Risk Rating 5
Risk Rating 6
Risk Rating 6/7 and 7
The weighted average term to maturity and weighted average interest rate of NSBF’s loan portfolio as of December 31, 2016 was 16.8 years and 6.24%, respectively.
Controlled Portfolio Companies
In addition to our debt investments in portfolio companies, either directly or through our small business finance platform, we also hold controlling interests in certain portfolio companies that, as of December 31, 2016, represented approximately 35% of our total investment portfolio. Specifically, we hold a controlling interest in SBL, NBC, BSP, Universal Processing Services of Wisconsin, LLC d/b/a Newtek Merchant Solutions (“NMS” or “UPSW”), Premier Payments LLC d/b/a Newtek Payment Solutions (“Premier”), CrystalTech Web Hosting, Inc. d/b/a Newtek Technology Solutions (“NTS”), PMTWorks Payroll, LLC d/b/a Newtek Payroll and Benefits Solutions (“NPS”) and Newtek Insurance Agency, LLC (“NIA”). We refer to these entities (among others), collectively, as our “controlled portfolio companies.” Our controlled portfolio companies provide us with an extensive network of business relationships that supplement our referral sources and that we believe will help us to maintain a robust pipeline of lending opportunities and expand our small business finance platform.
The revenues that our controlled portfolio companies generate, after deducting operational expenses, may be distributed to us. As a BDC, our board of directors (the “Board”) will determine quarterly the fair value of our controlled portfolio companies in a similar manner as our other investments. In particular, our investments in our controlled portfolio companies are valued using a valuation methodology that incorporates both the market approach (guideline public company method) and the income approach (discounted cash flow analysis). In following these approaches, factors that we may take into account in determining the fair value of our investments include, as relevant: available current market data, including relevant and applicable market
trading comparables, the portfolio company’s earnings and discounted cash flows, comparisons of financial ratios of peer companies that are public, and enterprise values, among other factors. In addition, the Company has engaged third party valuation firms to provide valuation consulting services for the valuation of certain of our controlled portfolio companies.
Newtek Merchant Solutions and Newtek Payment Solutions
On July 23, 2015, we invested in 100% of the membership interests of Premier, one of the country’s leading electronic payment processing independent sales organizations, which powers billions of dollars of credit card and debit card transactions on an annual basis. We anticipate that this investment will continue to expand our controlled portfolio companies' presence in the merchant processing space.
Both NMS and Premier market credit and debit card processing services, check approval services and ancillary processing equipment and software to merchants who accept credit cards, debit cards, checks and other non-cash forms of payment. They utilize a multi-pronged sales approach of both direct and indirect sales. NMS and Premier's primary sales efforts focus on direct sales through our Your Business Solutions Company® brand. Their indirect sales channels consist of alliance partners, principally financial institutions (banks, credit unions, insurance companies and other related businesses), and independent sales agents across the U.S. These referring organizations and associations are typically paid a percentage of the processing revenue derived from the respective merchants that they successfully refer to NMS and Premier. In 2016, NMS and Premier processed merchant transactions with sales volumes of over $5.8 billion combined.
NMS and Premier have a number of competitive advantages which we believe will enable them to exceed industry growth averages. These are:
They focus on non-traditional business generation: referral relationships, wholesale solicitations and financial institutions rather than independent agents;
They are a market leader in the implementation of technology in the payment processing business;
They license the rights, through one of our Capco investments (defined below), to a payment processing gateway;
They maintain their own staff of trained and skilled customer service representatives; and
They market and sell the latest in point-of-sale technology hardware, re implementing of the EMV system (Europay, MasterCard, Visa inter-operative integrated circuit cards) and continuous cyber-security services.
NMS and Premier maintain their principal customer service and sales support offices in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Lake Success, New York, with additional specialists located in Phoenix, Arizona and Brownsville, Texas. NMS' and Premier’s personnel at these locations assist merchants with initial installation of equipment and on-going service, as well as any other special processing needs that they may have.
NMS' and Premier’s development and growth are focused on selling their services to internally generated referrals, merchant referrals identified by Newtek alliance partners and by independent sales representatives. We believe NMS and Premier are different than most electronic payment processing companies who acquire their clients primarily through independent agents. NMS and Premier believe that their business models provide them with a competitive advantage by enabling them to acquire new merchant customers at a lower cost level for third-party commissions than the industry average. NMS' and Premier’s business models allows them to own the customer as well as the stream of residual payments, as opposed to models which rely more heavily on independent sales agents.
Newtek Technology Solutions
NTS offers website hosting, dedicated server hosting, cloud hosting, web design and development, internet marketing, eCommerce, data storage and backup, and other related services to more than 99,000 customer accounts in 167 countries and manages over 70,000 domain names. While there are many competitors in this space, we believe that NTS is the only technology company with the exclusive focus on the SMB market with products tailored to the specific needs of these business customers.
NTS provides a full suite of outsourced IT infrastructure services, including cloud (virtual) server instances, shared server hosting, and dedicated server hosting, under the Newtek® Technology Solutions, Newtek® Technology Services, Newtek® Web Services, Newtek Web Hosting®, and CrystalTech® brands, for which it receives recurring monthly fees, as well as other
fees such as set-up fees, consulting fees, and domain name registration fees, among others. Approximately 90% of all fees are paid in advance by credit card.
NTS has recognized the continuing decline in Microsoft being utilized in the design of web sites and the market shift to Linux, Nginx and a proliferation of Word Press sites being built on non-Microsoft based platforms. This decline has caused a marked downward trend in the historical site count of NTS Microsoft hosted sites. NTS has responded by launching Linux Apache and Linux Nginx platforms within its environment and created associated control panels, service/support and billing to participate more fully in 100% of the market as compared to the present 33% of the new web design growth represented by Microsoft. All platforms are available within NTS’ cloud and non-cloud environment and are fully managed offerings as compared to NTS’ competitors. In addition, Newtek has created a patented proprietary platform, Newtek Advantage®, which leverages NTS’ underlying technologies to deliver real time information and actionable business intelligence to its existing and new customer base.
NTS has a complete line of cloud based business and eCommerce packages and Cloud Spaces to streamline the decision process for business owners and accommodate designers and developers that wish to build sites in both Microsoft and Linux environments. Included with this service offering is full customer service with a real human interface available on a 24/7/365 basis, which we believe further distinguishes NTS from its competitors who usually offer co-location hosting without the support needed for the SMB market customer.
NTS’ cloud offerings provide for a consumption-based hosting model that allows customers to pay only for the resources they need, which not only saves them money compared to traditional server hosting, but also enables them to scale larger or smaller on demand.
NTS currently operates five data centers in Scottsdale, Arizona, Phoenix, Arizona, Edison, New Jersey, Denver, Colorado and Slough, England.
NTS delivers services not just to customers seeking hosting, but also to wholesalers, resellers, and web developers by offering a range of tools for them to build, resell, and deliver their web content. Depending on the application environment, NTS uses various versions of Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 through Windows 2012 R2 as the primary operating system installed in a virtual machine server format. NTS is PCI certified, and Service Organization Control 1 (“SOC 1”) audited, all of which mean that it meets the highest industry standards for data security.
The datacenter facilities NTS employs to host it's technologies conforms to The Uptime Institute's 4-Tier Classification System which has become a global standard for 3rd -party validation of data center critical infrastructure. The Tier Classification System defines the requirements and benefits of four distinct Tier classifications for data center infrastructure. Each Tier sets the appropriate criteria for power, cooling, maintenance, and capability to withstand a fault. Tiers is progressive; each Tier incorporates the requirements of all the lower Tiers. NTS operates its critical infrastructure within facilities that have a minimum rating of Tier 3-Certified. NTS datacenters meet and exceed Uptime Institute Tier-3 standards in all categories which allows NTS to pursue and service, compliance-sensitive workloads from the financial services, healthcare, government and military sectors. In addition, NTS includes redundant, carrier-neutral network design for all its communications paths, multiple locations to host services, and a built in DDOS mitigation platform into the design of its datacenter services.
Throughout its affiliation with Newtek, over 70% of new NTS customers have come as a result of internal and external referrals without material expenditures by NTS for marketing or advertising. Many of NTS’ competitors are very price sensitive, offering minimal services at cut-rate pricing. While being cost competitive with most Linux-and Windows-based web hosting services, NTS has emphasized higher quality uptime, service and support as well as multiple control panel environments for the designer and developer community.
NTS has diversified its product offerings to SMBs under different brands, all under Newtek Technology Solutions, including Newtek Web Hosting,® Newtek Web Services, Newtek Data Storage® and Newtek Web Design and Development®. NTS focuses specifically on select markets such as restaurants, financial institutions, medical practices, law firms, accountants, retail and technology service providers for channel business and reselling.
NTS has also launched a turnkey hosting service to meet financial institution needs for dedicated servers, hosting and/or data storage, enabling these entities to comply with their strict regulatory requirements that demand very high security protocols and practices be in place.
Newtek Insurance Agency
NIA, which is licensed in 50 states, offers SMB and personal lines insurance products and services. NIA serves as a retail and wholesale brokerage insurance agency specializing in the sale of personal, commercial and health/benefits lines insurance products to customers of all of the Newtek portfolio companies as well as Newtek alliance partners. NIA offers insurance products from multiple insurance carriers providing a wide range of choice for its customers. NIA has formed strategic alliances with AIG, E-Insure, Credit Union National Association, Navy Federal Credit Union, the Commercial Transportation Association of America, Pershing and others to provide agent services to SMB clients referred by them. NIA is continuing its efforts to implement programs with alliance partners to market commercial and personal insurance. In December 2012, NIA, working with another Newtek subsidiary, acquired a portfolio of insurance business from a health care insurance agency based in the New York City area. This added approximately 340 group health insurance policies that NIA is servicing and forms the basis on which NIA is growing this aspect of the insurance business. We also expect that recent health care legislation will increase the demand for these services among SMBs. A major sales channel for NIA is the SMB customer base of our lending platform and the other controlled portfolio companies which allow for many opportunities for cross sales between business lines.
Newtek Payroll and Benefits Solutions
NPS offers an array of industry standard and very competitively priced payroll management, benefit, payment and tax reporting services to SMBs. These payroll and benefit solutions are marketed through all of Newtek’s available channels including the alliance partnerships and direct marketing campaigns. NPS also benefits by the access to the SMB customer base of the lending platform and the other controlled portfolio companies.
NPS provides full service payroll and benefit solutions across all industries, processing payroll via SaaS or phone solutions. They have an established and reliable platform that is not limited by client size, industry type or delivery interface. NPS assists clients in managing their payroll processing needs by calculating, collecting and disbursing their payroll funds, remitting payroll taxes and preparing and filing all associated tax returns. In addition, NPS offers clients a range of ancillary service offerings, including workers’ compensation insurance, time and attendance, 401(k) administration, pay cards, employee benefit plans, employee background screening, COBRA services, tax credit recovery, Section 125 and flexible benefits spending plans and expense management services.
Certified Capital Companies (Capcos)
Under state-created Capco programs, states provide a Capco with tax credits generally equal to the amount of funds the Capco raises from insurance company investors. The Capcos then issue the tax credits to its investors — a process which is designed to reduce the Capco’s investors’ state tax liabilities. In exchange for receiving the tax credits, the Capco is obligated to invest the funds raised in certain qualified business, which generally are defined by statute to include only business that meet certain criteria related to the size, location, number of employees, and other characteristics of the business. If a Capco fails to comply with the performance requirements of each state’s different Capco program, the tax credits are subject to forfeiture.
Under state law, a Capco that has invested in qualified businesses an amount equal to 100% of its initial certified capital is able to decertify (i.e., terminate its status as a Capco) and no longer be subject to any state Capco regulation. Upon voluntary decertification, the programs in about half of the states require that a Capco share any distributions to its equity holders with the state sponsoring the Capco. For those states that require a share of distributions, the sharing percentages vary, but are generally from 10% to 30%, usually on distributions above a specified internal rate of return for the equity owners of the Capco.
Based on the above and that the Capcos were formed to make investments in businesses, the entities were determined to be investment companies and are therefore consolidated subsidiaries of Newtek.
Our Capcos have historically invested in SMBs and, in addition to interest income and investment returns, have generated non-cash income from tax credits and non-cash interest and insurance expenses in addition to cash management fees and expenses. We have de-emphasized our Capco business in favor of growing our controlled portfolio companies and do not anticipate creating any new Capcos. While observing all requirements of the Capco programs and, in particular, financing qualified businesses meeting applicable state requirements as to limitations on the proportion of ownership of qualified businesses, we believe the growth of our controlled portfolio companies produces a strategic focus on providing goods and services to SMBs such as those in which our Capcos invest. We continue to invest in and lend to SMBs through our existing Capcos and intend to meet the goals of the Capco programs.
As the Capcos reach 100% investment we will seek to decertify them as Capcos, liquidate their remaining assets and thereby reduce their operational costs, particularly the legal and accounting costs associated with compliance. Six of our original sixteen Capcos have reached this stage.
We have developed our branded line of products and services to offer a full service suite of business and financial solutions for the U.S. SMB market. Newtek reaches potential customers through its integrated multi-channel approach featuring direct, indirect and direct outbound solicitation efforts. Although we continue to utilize and grow our primary marketing channel of strategic alliance partners, more recently, and consistent with our BDC Conversion, we have initiated a direct marketing strategy to SMB customers through our new “go to market” brand, Your Business Solutions Company®. Through a coordinated radio and television advertising campaign built around this brand, and our web presence, www.newtekone.com, we believe we are establishing ourselves as a preferred “go-to” provider for SMB financing and the services offered by our controlled portfolio companies. In addition, we supplement these efforts with extensive efforts to present the Company as the authority on small businesses.
We market services through referrals from our strategic alliance partners such as AIG, Amalgamated Bank, Credit Union National Association, E-Insure, ENT Federal Credit Union, The Hartford, Legacy Bank, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, Navy Federal Credit Union, New York Community Bank, Lending Tree, LLC, Randolph Brooks Federal Credit Union, UBS Bank, Meineke Dealers Purchasing Cooperative and True Value Company, among others, (using our patented NewTracker® referral management system) as well as direct referrals from our web presence, www.newtekone.com. Our NewTracker® referral system has a software application patent covering the systems and methods for tracking, reporting and performing processing activities and transactions in association with referral data and related information for a variety of product and service offerings in a business-to-business environment. The NewTracker® system provides for security and transparency between referring parties and has been material in our ability to obtain referrals from a wide variety of sources. This patented system allows us and our alliance partners to review in real time the status of any referral as well as to provide real time compliance oversight by the respective alliance partner, which we believe creates confidence among the referred business client, the referring alliance partner and us. We own the NewTracker® patent, as well as all trademarks and other patented intellectual property used by us and our controlled portfolio companies.
Additional referrals are obtained from individual professionals in geographic markets that have signed up to provide referrals and earn commissions through our BizExec and TechExec Programs. Our BizExecs and TechExecs are traditionally information technology professionals, CPAs, independent insurance agents and sales and/or marketing professionals. In addition, electronic payment processing services are marketed through independent sales agents, and web technology and eCommerce services are marketed through internet-based marketing and third-party resellers. A common thread across all business lines of our controlled portfolio companies relates to acquiring customers at low cost and making strategic alliances primarily where we pay fees only for successful referrals. We seek to bundle our marketing efforts through our brand, our portal, our patented NewTracker® referral system, our web presence as Your Business Solutions Company® and one easy entry point of contact. We expect that this approach will allow us to continue to cross-sell the financing services of our small business finance platform to customers of our controlled portfolio companies and build upon our extensive deal sourcing infrastructure. The compensation which we pay for referrals is consistent with industry practices.
Senior Lending Team and Executive Committee
The key members of our Senior Lending Team, most of which have worked together for more than ten years each have over 25 years of experience in finance-related fields. These investment professionals have worked together to screen opportunities, underwrite new investments and manage a portfolio of investments in SMBs through two recessions, a credit crunch, the dot-com boom and bust and a historic, leverage-fueled asset valuation bubble. Each member brings a complementary component to a team well-rounded in finance, accounting, operations, strategy, business law and executive management.
Because we are internally managed by our Executive Committee, which includes Barry Sloane, Peter Downs, Jennifer C. Eddelson, Michael A. Schwartz, John Raven and Nilesh Joshi, under the supervision of our Board, and do not depend on a third party investment advisor, we do not pay investment advisory fees and all of our income is available to pay our operating costs and to make distributions to our shareholders. While our portfolio companies are independently managed, our Executive Committee also oversees our controlled portfolio companies and, to the extent that we may make additional equity investments in the future, the Executive Committee will also have primary responsibility for the identification, screening, review and completion of such investments. We do not expect to focus our resources on investing in additional stand-alone equity investments, but may elect to do so from time to time on an opportunistic basis, if such opportunities arise. Messrs. Sloane and Downs have been involved together in the structuring and management of equity investments for the past ten years.
We believe that the limited amount of capital and financial products available to SMBs, coupled with the desire of these companies for flexible and partnership-oriented sources of capital and other financial products, creates an attractive investment environment for us to further expand our small business finance platform and overall brand. We believe the following factors will continue to provide us with opportunities to grow and deliver attractive returns to shareholders.
The SMB market represents a large, underserved market. We estimate the SMB market to include over 27 million businesses in the U.S. We believe that SMBs, most of which are privately-held, are relatively underserved by traditional capital providers such as commercial banks, finance companies, hedge funds and collateralized loan obligation funds. Further, we believe that such companies generally possess conservative capital structures with significant enterprise value cushions, as compared to larger companies with more financing options. While the largest originators of SBA 7(a) loans have traditionally been regional and national banks, from 2012 through December 31, 2016, NSBF was the largest non-bank originator of SBA 7(a) loans by dollar volume and is currently the seventh largest SBA 7(a) lender in the U.S. As a result, we believe we and our controlled portfolio companies are well positioned to provide financing to the types of SMBs that we have historically targeted and we have the technology and infrastructure in place presently to do it cost effectively in all 50 states and across many industries.
Recent credit market dislocation for SMBs has created an opportunity for attractive risk-weighted returns. We believe the credit crisis that began in 2007 and the subsequent exit of traditional capital sources, such as commercial banks, finance companies, hedge funds and collateralized loan obligation funds, has resulted in an increase in opportunities for alternative funding sources such as our SMB lending platform. We believe that the reduced competition in our market and an increased opportunity for attractive risk-weighted returns positions us well for future growth. The remaining lenders and investors in the current environment are requiring lower amounts of senior and total leverage, increased equity commitments and more comprehensive covenant packages than was customary in the years leading up to the credit crisis. We do not expect a reversal of these conditions in the foreseeable future.
Future refinancing activity is expected to create additional investment opportunities. A high volume of financings completed between 2005 and 2008 will mature in the coming years. We believe this supply of opportunities coupled with limited financing providers focused on SMBs will continue to offer investment opportunities with attractive risk-weighted returns.
The increased capital requirements and other regulations placed on banks may reduce lending by traditional large financial institutions and community banks. While many SMBs were previously able to raise debt financing through traditional large financial institutions, we believe this approach to financing will continue to be constrained for several years as continued implementation of U.S. and international financial reforms, such as Basel III, phase in and rules and regulations are promulgated under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. We believe that these regulations will increase capital requirements and have the effect of further limiting the capacity of traditional financial institutions to hold non-investment grade loans on their balance sheets. As a result, we believe that many of these financial institutions have de-emphasized their service and product offerings to SMBs, which we believe will make a higher volume of deal flow available to us.
Increased demand for comprehensive, business-critical SMB solutions. Increased competition and rapid technological innovation are creating an increasingly competitive business environment that requires SMBs to fundamentally change the way they manage critical business processes. This environment is characterized by greater focus on increased quality, lower costs, faster turnaround and heightened regulatory scrutiny. To make necessary changes and adequately address these needs, we believe that companies are focusing on their core competencies and utilizing cost-effective outsourced solutions to improve productivity, lower costs and manage operations more efficiently. Our controlled portfolio companies provide critical business solutions such as electronic payment processing, managed IT solutions, personal and commercial insurance services and full-service payroll and benefit solutions, receivables financing and funding of SBA 504 loans which provide financing of fixed assets such as real estate or equipment. We believe that each of these market segments are underserved for SMBs and since we are able to provide comprehensive solutions under one platform, we are well positioned to continue to realize growth from these product offerings.
We believe that we are well positioned to take advantage of investment opportunities in SMBs due to the following competitive advantages:
Internally Managed Structure and Significant Management Resources. We are internally managed by our executive officers under the supervision of our Board and do not depend on an external investment advisor. As a result, we do not pay investment advisory fees and all of our income is available to pay our operating costs, which include employing investment and portfolio management professionals, and to make distributions to our shareholders. We believe that our internally managed structure
provides us with a lower cost operating expense structure, when compared to other publicly traded and privately-held investment firms which are externally managed, and allows us the opportunity to leverage our non-interest operating expenses as we grow our investment portfolio. Our senior lending team has developed one of the largest independent loan origination and servicing platforms that focuses exclusively on SMBs.
Business Model Enables Attractive Risk-Weighted Return on Investment in SBA Lending. Our loans are structured so as to permit rapid sale of the U.S. government guaranteed portions, often within weeks of origination, and the unguaranteed portions have been successfully securitized and sold, usually within a year of origination. The return of principal and premium may result in an advantageous risk-weighted return on our original investment in each loan. We may determine to retain the government guaranteed or unguaranteed portions of loans pending deployment of excess capital.
State of the Art Technology. Our patented NewTracker® software enables us to board a SMB customer, process the application or inquiry, assemble necessary documents, complete the transaction and create a daily reporting system that is sufficiently unique as to receive a U.S. patent. This system enables us to identify a transaction, similar to a merchandise barcode or the customer management system used by SalesForce.com, then process a business transaction and generate internal reports used by management and external reports for strategic referral partners. It allows our referral partners to have digital access into our back office and follow on a real time, 24/7 basis the processing of their referred customers. This technology has been made applicable to all of the service and product offerings we make directly or through our controlled portfolio companies.
Established Direct Origination Platform with Extensive Deal Sourcing Infrastructure. We have established a direct origination pipeline for investment opportunities without the necessity for investment banks or brokers as well as broad marketing channels that allow for highly selective underwriting. The combination of our brand, our portal, our patented NewTracker® technology, and our web presence as Your Business Solutions Company® have created an extensive deal sourcing infrastructure. Although we pay fees for loan originations that are referred to us by our alliance partners, our investment team works directly with the borrower to assemble and underwrite loans. We rarely invest in pre-assembled loans that are sold by investment banks or brokers. As a result, we believe that our unique national origination platform allows us to originate attractive credits at a low cost. During 2016 we funded $309,146,000 of SBA 7(a) loans, based on the large volume of loan proposals we received in 2016. We anticipate that our principal source of investment opportunities will continue to be in the same types of SMBs to which we currently provide financing. Our Executive Committee and Senior Lending Team will also seek to leverage their extensive network of additional referral sources, including law firms, accounting firms, financial, operational and strategic consultants and financial institutions, with whom we have completed investments. We believe our current infrastructure and expansive relationships will continue to enable us to review a significant amount of high quality, direct (or non-brokered) investment opportunities.
Experienced Senior Lending Team with Proven Track Record. We believe that our Senior Lending Team is one of the leading capital providers to SMBs. Our Senior Lending Team has expertise in managing the SBA process and has managed a diverse portfolio of investments with a broad geographic and industry mix. While the primary focus of NSBF is to expand its debt financing activities in SBA 7(a) loans, our Executive Committee also has substantial experience in making debt and equity investments through our Capcos.
Flexible, Customized Financing Solutions for Seasoned, Smaller Businesses. While NSBF's primary focus is to expand its lending by activities by providing SBA 7(a) loans to SMBs, we also seek to offer SMBs a variety of attractive financing structures, as well as cost effective and efficient business services, to meet their capital needs through our subsidiaries and controlled portfolio companies. In particular, through our subsidiaries and controlled portfolio companies, we offer larger loans, between $5,000,000 and $10,000,000, greater than loans available with the SBA guarantee, but with a higher interest rate to compensate for the increased risk. Unlike many of our competitors, we believe we have the platform to provide a complete package of service and financing options for SMBs, which allows for cross-selling opportunities and improved client retention. We expect that a large portion of our capital will be loaned to companies that need growth capital, acquisition financing or funding to recapitalize or refinance existing debt facilities. Our lending will continue to focus on making loans to SMBs that:
have 3 to 10 years of operational history;
significant experience in management;
credit worthy owners who provide a personal guarantee for our investment;
show a strong balance sheet to collateralize our investments; and
show sufficient cash flow to be able to service the payments on our investments comfortably.
Although we may make investments in start-up businesses, we generally seek to avoid investing in high-risk, early-stage enterprises that are only beginning to develop their market share or build their management and operational infrastructure with limited collateral.
Disciplined Underwriting Policies and Rigorous Portfolio Management. We pursue rigorous due diligence of all prospective investments originated through our platform. Our senior lending team has developed an extensive underwriting due diligence process, which includes a review of the operational, financial, legal and industry performance and outlook for the prospective investment, including quantitative and qualitative stress tests, review of industry data and consultation with outside experts regarding the creditworthiness of the borrower. These processes continue during the portfolio monitoring process, when we will conduct field examinations, review all compliance certificates and covenants and regularly assess the financial and business conditions and prospects of portfolio companies. In addition, SBL and BSP are servicers for commercial, SBA 7(a) and other government guaranteed whose exceptional servicing capabilities with compact timelines for loan resolutions and dispositions has attracted various third-party portfolios to these controlled portfolio companies.
Business Development Company Conversion
On October 22, 2014, we effectuated the Reverse Stock Split. In conjunction with the completion of a public offering, we merged with and into Newtek Business Services Corp., a newly-formed Maryland corporation, for the purpose of reincorporating in Maryland and we elected to be regulated as a BDC under the 1940 Act in the BDC Conversion. In connection with our election of RIC status beginning with our 2015 tax year, on October 1, 2015 our Board declared a special dividend of $2.69 per share which was paid partially in cash and partially in our common shares on December 31, 2015.
As a BDC, we are required to meet regulatory tests, including the requirement to invest at least 70% of our gross assets in “qualifying assets.” Qualifying assets generally include debt or equity securities of private or thinly traded public U.S. companies and cash, cash equivalents, U.S. government securities and high-quality debt investments that mature in one year or less. In addition, as a BDC, we are not be permitted to incur indebtedness unless immediately after such borrowing we have an asset coverage for total borrowings of at least 200% (i.e., the amount of debt may not exceed 50% of the value of our total assets). See “Regulation.”
In connection with our election to be regulated as a BDC, we elected to be treated for U.S. federal income tax purposes, beginning with our 2015 tax year, and intend to qualify annually thereafter, as a RIC under Subchapter M of the Code. As a RIC, we generally will not have to pay corporate-level federal income taxes on any ordinary income or capital gains that we distribute to our shareholders. To obtain and maintain our RIC tax treatment, we must meet specified source-of-income and asset diversification requirements and distribute annually at least 90% of our ordinary income and realized net short-term capital gains in excess of realized net long-term capital losses, if any.
We engage in various investment strategies from time to time in order to achieve our overall investment objectives.
Portfolio Company Characteristics
We have and will continue to target investments in future portfolio companies that generate both current income and capital appreciation. In each case, the following criteria and guidelines are applied to the review of a potential investment however, not all criteria are met in every single investment, nor do we guarantee that all criteria will be met in the investments we will make in the future. We have and will continue to limit our investments to the SMB market.
Experienced Senior Investment Teams with Meaningful Investment. We seek to invest in companies in which senior or key managers have significant company-or industry-level experience and have significant equity ownership. It has been our experience that these senior investment teams are more committed to the portfolio company’s success and more likely to manage the company in a manner that protects our debt and equity investments.
Significant Invested Capital. We believe that the existence of an appropriate amount of equity beneath our debt capital provides valuable support for our investment. In addition, the degree to which the particular investment is a meaningful one for the portfolio company’s owners (and their ability and willingness to invest additional equity capital as and to the extent necessary) are also important considerations.
Appropriate Capital Structures. We seek to invest in portfolio companies that are appropriately capitalized. First, we examine the amount of equity that is being invested by the company’s equity owners to determine whether there is a sufficient capital cushion beneath our invested capital. We also analyze the amount of leverage, and the characteristics of senior debt with lien priority over our senior subordinated debt. A key consideration is a strong balance sheet and sufficient free cash flow to service any debt we may invest.
Strong Competitive Position. We invest in portfolio companies that have developed strong, defensible product or service offerings within their respective market segment(s). These companies should be well positioned to capitalize on organic and strategic growth opportunities, and should compete in industries with strong fundamentals and meaningful barriers to entry. We further analyze prospective portfolio investments in order to identify competitive advantages within their industry, which may result in superior operating margins or industry-leading growth.
Customer and Supplier Diversification. We expect to invest in portfolio companies with sufficiently diverse customer and supplier bases. We believe these companies will be better able to endure industry consolidation, economic contraction and increased competition than those that are not sufficiently diversified. However, we also recognize that from time to time, an attractive investment opportunity with some concentration among its customer base or supply chain will present itself. We believe that concentration issues can be evaluated and, in some instances (whether due to supplier or customer product or platform diversification, the existence and quality of long-term agreements with such customers or suppliers or other select factors), mitigated, thus presenting a superior risk-weighted pricing scenario.
We target our debt investments, which are principally made through our small business finance platform under the SBA 7(a) program, to produce a coupon rate of prime plus 2.75% which enables us to generate rapid sales of loans in the secondary market historically producing gains and with a yield on investment in excess of 30%. We typically structure our debt investments with the maximum seniority and collateral along with personal guarantees from portfolio company owners, in many cases collateralized by other assets including real estate. In most cases, our debt investment will be collateralized by a first lien on the assets of the portfolio company and a first or second lien on assets of guarantors, in both cases primarily real estate. All SBA loans are made with personal guarantees from any owner(s) of 20% or more of the portfolio company’s equity. As of December 31, 2016, substantially all of our SBA 7(a) portfolio at fair value consisted of debt investments that were secured by first or second priority liens on the assets of the portfolio company.
First Lien Loans. Our first lien loans generally have terms of one to twenty-five years, provide for a variable interest rate, contain no prepayment penalties (however, the SBA will charge the borrower a prepayment fee if the loan has a maturity of 15 or more years and is prepaid during the first three years) and are secured by a first priority security interest in all existing and future assets of the borrower. Our first lien loans may take many forms, including revolving lines of credit, term loans and acquisition lines of credit.
Second Lien Loans. Our second lien loans generally have terms of five to twenty five years, also primarily provide for a variable interest rate, contain no prepayment penalties (however, the SBA will charge the borrower a prepayment fee if the loan has a maturity of 15 or more years and is prepaid during the first three years) and are secured by a second priority security interest in all existing and future assets of the borrower. We typically only take second lien positions on additional collateral where we also have first lien positions on business assets.
Unsecured Loans. We make few unsecured investments, primarily to our controlled portfolio companies, which because of our equity ownership are deemed to be more secure. Typically, these loans are to meet short-term funding needs and are repaid within 6 to 12 months.
We typically structure our debt investments to include non-financial covenants that seek to minimize our risk of capital loss such as lien protection and prohibitions against change of control. Our debt investments have strong protections, including default penalties, information rights and, in some cases, board observation rights and affirmative, negative and financial covenants. Debt investments in portfolio companies, including the controlled portfolio companies, have historically and are expected to continue to comprise in excess of 95% of our overall investments in number and dollar volume.
While the vast majority of our investments have been structured as debt, we have in the past and expect in the future to make selective equity investments primarily as either strategic investments to enhance the integrated operating platform or, to a lesser degree, under the Capco programs. For investments in our controlled portfolio companies, we focus more on tailoring them to the long term growth needs of the companies than to immediate return. Our objective with these companies is to foster the development of the businesses as a part of the integrated operational platform of serving the SMB market, so we may reduce the burden on these companies to enable them to grow faster than they would otherwise as another means of supporting their development and that of the integrated whole.
In Capco investments, we often make debt investments in conjunction with being granted equity in the company in the same class of security as the business owner receives upon funding. We generally seek to structure our equity investments to provide us with minority rights provisions and event-driven put rights. We also seek to obtain limited registration rights in connection with these investments, which may include “piggyback” registration rights.
The members of our Senior Lending Team and our Executive Committee are responsible for all aspects of our investment selection process. The discussion below describes our investment procedures. The stages of our investment selection process are as follows:
Loan and Deal Generation/Origination
We believe that the combination of our brand, our portal, our patented NewTracker® technology, and our web presence as Your Business Solutions Company® have created an extensive loan and deal sourcing infrastructure. This is maximized through long-standing and extensive relationships with industry contacts, brokers, commercial and investment bankers, entrepreneurs, services providers (such as lawyers and accountants), as well as current and former clients, portfolio companies and our extensive network of strategic alliance partners. We supplement our relationships by the selective use of radio and television advertising aimed primarily at lending to the SMB market. We believe we have developed a reputation as a knowledgeable and reliable source of capital, providing value-added advice, prompt processing, and management and operations support to our portfolio companies.
We market our loan and investment products and services, and those of our controlled portfolio companies, through referrals from our alliance partners such as AIG, Amalgamated Bank, Credit Union National Association, E-Insure, ENT Federal Credit Union, The Hartford, Legacy Bank, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, Navy Federal Credit Union, New York Community Bank, Lending Tree, LLC, Randolph Brooks Federal Credit Union, UBS Bank, Meineke Dealers Purchasing Cooperative and True Value Company, among others using our patented NewTracker® referral system as well as direct referrals from our web presence, www.newtekone.com. The patent for our NewTracker® referral system is a software application patent covering the systems and methods for tracking, reporting and performing processing activities and transactions in association with referral data and related information for a variety of product and service offerings in a business-to-business environment providing further for security and transparency between referring parties. This system allows us and our alliance partners to review in real time the status of any referral as well as to provide real time compliance oversight by the respective alliance partner, which we believe creates confidence between the referred business client, the referring alliance partner and us.
Additional deal sourcing and referrals are obtained from individual professionals in geographic markets that have signed up to provide referrals and earn commissions through our BizExec and TechExec Programs. The BizExecs and TechExecs are traditionally information technology professionals, CPAs, independent insurance agents and sales and/or marketing professionals. In addition, electronic payment processing services are marketed through independent sales representatives and web technology and eCommerce services are marketed through internet-based marketing and third-party resellers. A common thread across all business lines of our subsidiaries and controlled portfolio companies relates to acquiring customers at low cost. We seek to bundle our marketing efforts through our brand, our portal, our patented NewTracker® referral system, our new web presence as Your Business Solutions Company® and one easy entry point of contact. We expect that this approach will allow us to continue to cross-sell the financing services of our small business finance platform to our customers and customers of our controlled portfolio companies, and to build upon our extensive deal sourcing infrastructure.
We screen all potential debt or equity investment proposals that we receive for suitability and consistency with our investment criteria (see “Portfolio Company Characteristics,” above). In screening potential investments, our Senior Lending Team and our Executive Committee utilize a value-oriented investment philosophy and commit resources to managing downside exposure. If
a potential investment meets our basic investment criteria, a business service specialist or other member of our team is assigned to perform preliminary due diligence.
SBA Lending Procedures
We originate loans under the SBA 7(a) Program in accordance with our credit and underwriting policy, which incorporates by reference the SBA Rules and Regulations as they relate to the financing of such loans, including the U.S. Small Business Administration Standard Operating Procedures, Policies and Procedures for Financing (“SOP 50 10”).
During the initial application process for a loan originated under the SBA 7(a) Program, a business service specialist assists and guides the applicant through the application process, which begins with the submission of an online form. The online loan processing system collects required information and ensures that all necessary forms are provided to the applicant and filled out. The system conducts two early automatic screenings focused primarily on whether (i) the requested loan is for an eligible purpose, (ii) the requested loan is for an eligible amount and (iii) the applicant is an eligible borrower. If the applicant is eligible to fill out the entire application, the online system pre-qualifies the applicant based on preset credit parameters that meet the standards of Newtek and the SBA.
Once the online form and the application materials have been completed, our underwriting department (the “Underwriting Department”) becomes primarily responsible for reviewing and analyzing the application in order to accurately assess the level of risk being undertaken in making a loan. The Underwriting Department is responsible for assuring that all information necessary to prudently analyze the risk associated with a loan application has been obtained and has been analyzed. Credit files are developed and maintained with the documentation received during the application process in such a manner as to facilitate file review during subsequent developments during the life of the loan.
For a loan originated under the SBA 7(a) Program, the primary application document is SBA Form 1919 (Borrower Information Form) (“Form 1919”). Among other things, Form 1919 requires identifying information about the applicant, loan request, indebtedness, the principals, current or previous government financing, and certain other disclosures.
In addition to Form 1919, the following additional information is required:
an SBA Form 912 (Statement of Personal History), if question 1, 2, or 3 of Form 1919 is answered affirmatively;
an SBA Form 413 (Personal Financial Statement), for all owners of 20% or more (including the assets of the owner’s spouse and any minor children), and proposed guarantors;
business financial statements dated within 180 days prior to submission to SBA, consisting of (a) year-end balance sheets for the last three years, including detailed debt schedule, (b) year-end profit & loss (P&L) statements for the last three years, (c) reconciliation of net worth, (d) interim balance sheet, and (e) interim P&L statements;
a list of names and addresses of any subsidiaries and affiliates, including concerns in which the applicant holds a controlling interest and other concerns that may be affiliated by stock ownership, franchise, proposed merger or otherwise with the applicant, and business financial statements meeting the same requirements as above of such subsidiaries and affiliates;
the applicant’s original business license or certificate of doing business;
records of any loans the applicant may have applied for in the past;
signed personal and business federal income tax returns of the principals of the applicant’s business for previous three years;
personal résumés for each principal;
a brief history of the business and its challenges, including an explanation of why the SBA loan is needed and how it will help the business;
a copy of the applicant’s business lease, or note from the applicant’s landlord, giving terms of proposed lease; and
if purchasing an existing business, (a) current balance sheet and P&L statement of business to be purchased, (b) previous two years federal income tax returns of the business, (c) proposed Bill of Sale including Terms of Sale, and (d) asking price with schedule of inventory, machinery and equipment, furniture and fixtures.
We view current financial information as the foundation of sound credit analysis. To that end, we verify all business income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service and generally request that financial statements be submitted on an annual basis after the loan closes. For business entities or business guarantors, we request federal income tax returns for each fiscal year-end to meet the prior three-year submission requirement. For interim periods, we will accept management-prepared financial statements. The most recent financial information may not be more than 180 days old at the time of the approval of the loan, but we generally request that the most recent financial information not be older than 90 days in order to provide time for underwriting and submission to SBA for guaranty approval. For individuals or personal guarantors, we require a personal financial statement dated within 180 days of the application (sixty days is preferred) and personal income tax returns for the prior three years. In connection with each yearly update of business financial information, the personal financial information of each principal must also be updated. Spouses are required to sign all personal financial statements in order for the Underwriting Department to verify compliance with the SBA’s personal resource test. In addition, the Underwriting Department will ensure that there has been no adverse impact on financial condition of the applicant or its principals since the approval of the loan. If closing does not occur within ninety days of the date on which the loan is approved, updated business and personal financial statements must be obtained and any adverse change must be addressed before the proceeds of the loan may be disbursed. If closing does not occur within six months of the date on which the loan is approved, the applicant is generally required to reapply for the loan.
The standard underwriting process requires a stress test on the applicant’s interest rate to gauge the amount of increase that can be withstood by the applicant’s cash flow and still provide sufficient cash to service debt. The applicant’s cash flow is tested up to a 2% increase in interest rate. If the applicant’s debt service coverage ratio decreases to 1:1 or less than 1:1, the loan may only be made as an exception to our Underwriting Guidelines and would require the approval of our credit committee.
Required Site Visit
No loan will be funded without an authorized representative of Newtek first making a site visit to the business premises. We generally use a contracted vendor to make the required site visit but may from time to time send our own employees to perform this function. Each site visit will generate a narrative of the business property as well as photographs of the business property. Additional site visits will be made when a physical on-site inspection is warranted.
Credit Assessment of Applicant
Loan requests are assessed primarily based upon an analysis of the character, cash flow, capital, liquidity and collateral involved in the transaction.
Character: We require a personal credit report to be obtained on any principal or guarantor involved in a loan transaction. Emphasis is placed upon the importance of individual credit histories, as this is a primary indicator of an individual’s willingness and ability to repay debt. Any material negative credit information must be explained in writing by the principal, and must be attached to the personal credit report in the credit file. No loan will be made where an individual’s credit history calls into question the repayment ability of the business operation. A loan request from an applicant who has declared bankruptcy within the ten years preceding the loan application will require special consideration. A thorough review of the facts behind the bankruptcy and impact on creditors will be undertaken in determining whether the principal has demonstrated the necessary willingness and ability to repay debts. In addition, we will examine whether the applicant and its principals and guarantors have abided by the laws of their community. Any situation where a serious question concerning a principal’s character exists will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Unresolved character issues are grounds for declining a loan request regardless of the applicant’s financial condition or performance.
Cash Flow: We recognize that cash flow is the primary and desired source of repayment on any loan, and therefore is the primary focus of the credit decision. Any transaction in which the repayment is not reasonably assured through cash flow will be declined, regardless of other possible credit strengths. At a minimum, combined EBITDA will be used to evaluate repayment ability. Other financial analysis techniques will be employed as needed to establish the reasonableness of repayment. Where repayment is based on past experience, the applicant must demonstrate minimum combined cash flow coverage of 1.2 times based upon the most recent fiscal year-end financial statement. A determination of the ability to repay will not be based solely
upon interim operating results. Where repayment ability is not evident from historical combined earnings (including new businesses and changes of ownership), projections will be analyzed to determine whether repayment ability is reasonably assured. For changes in ownership, monthly cash flow forecasts will be analyzed to determine adequacy to meet all of the borrower’s needs.
For business acquisition applications, the applicant will be required to submit projections and support such projections by detailed assumptions made for all major revenue and expense categories and an explanation of how the projections will be met. Analysis must include comparisons with relevant Risk Management Association (“RMA”) industry averages. EBITDA must be reasonably forecast to exceed debt service requirements by at least 1.2 times, after accounting for the initial phase of operations. For change of ownership applications, projections will also be measured against the actual historical financial results of the seller of the business concern. Projections must demonstrate repayment ability of not less than 1.2 times.
Capital: Capital is a strong traditional indicator of the financial health of a business. For going concern entities, the pro-forma leverage position, as measured by the debt to tangible net worth ratio, may not exceed the RMA industry median or 4 to 1, whichever is greater. For change of ownership transactions, generally 25% of total project costs should be contributed as equity resulting in debt to tangible net worth ratio of 3 to 1.
For a change of ownership transaction where a substantial portion of intangibles are included within the transaction, adequacy of capital will be determined based upon an evaluation of the business value and level of injection. In determining the legitimacy of the business value, the loan underwriter must utilize two SBA approved valuation methods, as outlined in SBA SOP 50 10. If the business value is found to be acceptable, and the equity injection into the project is within our requirements as outlined herein, then the capital position will be considered satisfactory.
As a general rule, shareholder and affiliate loans may be added back to net worth only if such loans will be subordinated for the life of the SBA loan, with no principal or interest payments to be made. Financing by the seller of the business may also be considered as equity if the loan will be placed on full standby for the life of the SBA loan. Adjustments to net worth to account for the difference between the book value and appraised value of fixed assets may be made only when supported by a current appraisal. Appraisals on a “subject to” basis are not acceptable.
Liquidity: Liquidity, as measured by the current ratio, must be in line with the RMA industry average. An assessment of the adequacy of working capital is required. An assessment of the liquidity of a business is essential in determining the ability to meet future obligations. Lending to cash businesses such as hotels and restaurants requires less analysis of the liquidity of the business due to the timing of cash receipts. Industries with large receivables, payables, and inventory accounts require thorough review of the cash cycle of the business and evaluation of the applicant’s ability to manage these accounts. The current and quick ratios and turnover of receivables, payables and inventory are measured against the RMA industry median in determining the adequacy of these liquidity measures.
Collateral. We are required to reasonably secure each loan transaction with all worthwhile and available assets. Pursuant to SBA SOP 50 10, we may not (and will not) decline a loan if the only weakness in the application is the value of collateral in relation to the loan amount, provided that all assets available to the business and its principals have been pledged. As set forth in SBA SOP 50 10, the SBA considers a loan to be fully secured if the lender has taken a security interest in all available fixed assets with a combined “net book value” adjusted up to the loan amounts below. For 7(a) loans, “fixed assets” means real estate, including land and structures and machinery and equipment owned by the business. “Net book value” is defined as an asset’s original price minus depreciation and amortization.
We attempt to secure each loan transaction with as much real estate and liquid asset collateral as necessary; however, all fixed assets must be evaluated. Fixed assets are evaluated on the basis of the net book value to determine the realizable value among collateral types. Valuation factors are applied as follows:
Commercial real estate — 75%
Residential real estate — 85%
Machinery & Equipment — 50%
Furniture & Fixtures — 10%
Accounts receivable & inventory — 20%
Leasehold improvements — 5%
Certificate of Deposit — 100%
Regulated Licenses — will vary dependent upon type of license and geographic area. The liquidation rate used must be fully justified.
In addition to an assessment of the criteria specified above, there are certain special industry-specific requirements that will be considered in the loan application decision.
Change of Ownership: The minimum equity injection required in a change of ownership transaction is generally 20% but may be lower for specific industries such as medical and dental practices, gas stations and convenience stores, flag hotels and “strong” non-lodging franchises.
In the event of financing from the seller of the business, the applicant must inject not less than 10% of the project cost; the seller of the business may provide the balance on a complete standby basis for the life of the SBA loan. Exceptions to the equity requirement are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
For a change of ownership transaction, the application must be accompanied by a business plan including reasonable financial projections. The financial performance of the seller of the business must be evaluated based upon three years of corporate income tax returns and a current interim financial statement. Projections for the applicant must be in line with the historical financial performance at the business location. In cases where financial performance of the seller of the business is poor, a satisfactory explanation must be provided to detail the circumstances of performance. Projections for the applicant must be accompanied by detailed assumptions and be supported by information contained in the business plan.
Management should have related experience in the industry and demonstrate the ability to successfully operate the business. In the absence of satisfactory related experience, an assessment of management’s experience and capabilities, given the complexity and nature of the business, will be made. In the case of a franchise, we will generally take into account the reputation of a franchisor for providing worthwhile management assistance to its franchisees.
We carefully review change of ownership transactions. The loan underwriter will review the contract for sale, which will be included in the credit file. The contract for sale must include a complete breakdown of the purchase price, which must be justified through either a third party appraisal or directly by the loan underwriter through an approved valuation method specified in SBA SOP 50 10. The contract of sale must evidence an arm’s length transaction (but transactions between related parties are permitted so long as they are on an arm’s-length basis) which will preserve the existence of the small business or promote its sound development. In addition, a satisfactory reason for the sale of the business must be provided. The seller of the business must provide the prior three years of business tax returns and a current interim financial statement, as applicable.
Also in connection with a change of ownership transaction, the Loan Processing area of the Underwriting Department will order Uniform Commercial Code searches on the seller of the existing business. If such a search identifies any adverse information, the Loan Processor will advise the Underwriting Manager or Operations Manager so a prudent decision may be made with respect to the application.
Real Estate Transactions: Loan proceeds for the acquisition or refinancing of land or an existing building or for renovation or reconstruction of an existing building must meet the following criteria:
the property must be at least 51% owner-occupied pursuant to SBA policies; and
loan proceeds may not be used to remodel or convert any rental space in the property.
Loan proceeds for construction or refinancing of construction of a new building must meet the following criteria:
the property must be at least 60% owner-occupied pursuant to SBA policies; and
if the building is larger than current requirements of the applicant, projections must demonstrate that the applicant will need additional space within three years, and will use all of the additional space within ten years.
Commercial real estate appraisals are required on all primary collateral prior to the loan closing. In general, appraisals will be required as follows:
for loans up to $100,000 — a formal opinion of value prepared by a real estate professional with knowledge of the local market area;
for loans from $100,000 to $500,000 — a limited summary appraisal completed by a state certified appraiser;
for loans from $500,000 to $1 million — a limited summary appraisal by a Member of the Appraisal Institute (“MAI”) appraiser; and
for loans over $1 million — a complete self-contained appraisal by a MAI appraiser.
Environmental screenings and an environmental questionnaire are required for all commercial real estate taken as collateral.
In general, environmental reports are required as follows:
for real estate valued up to $500,000 — a transaction screen including a records review;
for real estate valued in excess of $500,000 — a Phase I Environmental Report; and
for the following types of property, a Phase I Environmental Report will be required regardless of property value: gasoline service stations, car washes, dry cleaners and any other business known to be in environmentally polluting industries.
In all cases for commercial real estate taken as collateral:
if further testing is recommended, the recommended level of testing will be performed prior to the loan closing; and
if the report indicates remedial action to be taken by the business, such actions must be completed prior to the loan closing and a closure letter must be provided prior to funding.
Medical Professionals: In connection with a loan application relating to the financing of a medical business, all medical licenses will be verified, with the loss or non-renewal of license constituting grounds for denial of the application. In addition, medical professionals must provide evidence of malpractice liability insurance of at least $2,000,000 or the loan amount, whichever is higher. Malpractice insurance must be maintained for the life of the loan.
Franchise Lending: All franchise loan applications will be evaluated as to eligibility by accessing SBA’s Franchise Registry. If the franchise is listed in the registry and the current franchise agreement is the same as the agreement listed in the registry, Newtek will not review the franchise agreement. However, the franchise agreement will be reviewed for eligibility by the loan underwriter when either of the following applies: (i) the franchise is not listed on the SBA’s Franchise Registry or (ii) the franchise is on the registry, but the franchisor has not provided a “Certification of No Change on Behalf of a Registered Franchisor” or a “Certification of Changes on Behalf of a Registered Franchisor.”
For each loan application, the loan underwriter will prepare a credit package (the “Credit Package”). All credit and collateral issues are addressed in the Credit Package, including but not limited to, the terms and conditions of the loan request, use of proceeds, collateral adequacy, financial condition of the applicant and business, management strength, repayment ability and conditions precedent. The Underwriting Department will recommend approval, denial or modification of the loan application. The Credit Package is submitted to our credit committee for further review and final decision regarding the loan application.
Other than rejections for ineligibility of the applicant, the type of business or the loan purpose, NSBF may decline a loan application for the following reasons:
after taking into consideration prior liens and considered along with other credit factors, the net value of the collateral offered as security is not sufficient to protect the interest of the U.S. Government;
lack of reasonable assurance of ability to repay loan (and other obligations) from earnings;
lack of reasonable assurance that the business can be operated at a rate of profit sufficient to repay the loan (and other obligations) from earnings;
disproportion of loan requested and of debts to tangible net worth before and after the loan;
inadequate working capital after the disbursement of the loan;
the result of granting the financial assistance requested would be to replenish funds distributed to the owners, partners, or shareholders;
lack of satisfactory evidence that the funds required are not obtainable without undue hardship through utilization of personal credit or resources of the owner, partners or shareholders;
the major portion of the loan requested would be to refinance existing indebtedness presently financed through normal lending channels;
credit commensurate with applicant’s tangible net worth is already being provided on terms considered reasonable;
gross disproportion between owner’s actual investment and the loan requested;
lack of reasonable assurance that applicant will comply with the terms of the loan agreement;
unsatisfactory experience on an existing loan; or
economic or physical injury not substantiated.
If a loan application is accepted, we will issue a commitment letter to the applicant. After approval, the SBA and NSBF enter into a Loan Authorization Agreement which sets forth the terms and conditions for the SBA’s guaranty on the loan. The closing of a loan is handled by an internal attorney, whose primary responsibility is closing the loan in accordance with the related Loan Authorization in a manner consistent with prudent commercial loan closing procedures, to ensure that the SBA will not repudiate its guaranty due to ineligibility, noncompliance with SBA Rules and Regulations or defective documentation. Before loan proceeds are disbursed, the closing attorney will verify the applicant’s required capital injection, ensure that proceeds are being used for a permitted purpose and ensure that other requirements of the Loan Authorization Agreement (including, but not limited to, required insurance and lien positions and environmental considerations) and SBA Rules and Regulations (including the use of proper SBA forms) have been met.
Maintenance of Credit Files
A credit file is developed on each borrowing account. Credit files, in either hard copy format or electronic copy, are maintained by the Underwriting Department and organized according to a specified format. The file contains all documentation necessary to show: (a) the basis of the loan, (b) purpose, compliance with policy, conditions, rate, terms of repayment, collateral, and (c) the authority for granting the loan. The credit file is subject to review or audit by the SBA at any time. Upon final action being taken on a loan application, information necessary for closing and servicing will be copied and maintained, while information not considered necessary will be transferred to off-site storage. Once a loan has been disbursed in full, credit files containing all documentation will be transferred to the file room or other electronic storage media and maintained under the authority of the administration staff. Any individual needing an existing credit file must obtain it from the administration staff member having responsibility for safeguarding all credit files or access it by a prearranged electronic file process. Removal of any information from the file will compromise the credit file and is prohibited.
Other, Primarily Equity Investments
Due Diligence and Underwriting
In making loans or equity investments other than SBA 7(a) loans or similar conventional loans to SMBs, our Executive Committee will take a direct role in screening potential loans or investments, in supervising the due diligence process, in the preparation of deal documentation and the completion of the transactions. The members of the Executive Committee complete due diligence and analyze the relationships among the prospective portfolio company’s business plan, operations and expected
financial performance. Due diligence may address some or all of the following depending on the size and nature of the proposed investment:
on-site visits with management and relevant key employees;
in-depth review of historical and projected financial statements, including covenant calculation work sheets;
interviews with customers and suppliers;
management background checks;
review reports by third-party accountants, outside counsel and other industry, operational or financial experts; and/or
review material contracts.
During the underwriting process, significant, ongoing attention is devoted to sensitivity analyses regarding whether a company might bear a significant “downside” case and remain profitable and in compliance with assumed financial covenants. These “downside” scenarios typically involve assumptions regarding the loss of key customers and/or suppliers, an economic downturn, adverse regulatory changes and other relevant stressors that we attempt to simulate in our quantitative and qualitative analyses. Further, we continually examine the effect of these scenarios on financial ratios and other metrics.
Approval, Documentation and Closing
Upon the completion of the due diligence process, the Executive Committee will review the results and determine if the transaction should proceed to approval. If approved by our Senior Lending Team and Executive Committee, the underwriting professionals heretofore involved proceed to documentation.
As and to the extent necessary, key documentation challenges are brought before our Senior Lending Team and Executive Committee for prompt discussion and resolution. Upon the completion of satisfactory documentation and the satisfaction of closing conditions, final approval is sought from our Executive Committee before closing and funding.
Ongoing Relationships with Portfolio Companies
Monitoring, Managerial Assistance
We have and will continue to monitor our portfolio companies on an ongoing basis. We monitor the financial trends of each portfolio company to determine if it is meeting its business plan and to assess the appropriate course of action for each company. We generally require our portfolio companies to provide annual audits, quarterly unaudited financial statements with management discussion and analysis and covenant compliance certificates, and monthly unaudited financial statements. Using these monthly financial statements, we calculate and evaluate all financial covenants and additional financial coverage ratios that might not be part of our covenant package in the loan documents. For purposes of analyzing a portfolio company’s financial performance, we sometimes adjust their financial statements to reflect pro-forma results in the event of a recent change of control, sale, acquisition or anticipated cost savings. Additionally, we believe that, through our integrated marketing and sale of each service line of NSBF and our controlled portfolio companies to our controlled portfolio companies (including electronic payment processing services through NMS and Premier, technology solutions through NTS, and payroll and benefits services through NPS) and non-affiliate portfolio companies, we have in place extensive and robust monitoring capabilities.
We have several methods of evaluating and monitoring the performance and fair value of our investments, including the following:
assessment of success in adhering to each portfolio company’s business plan and compliance with covenants;
periodic and regular contact with portfolio company management to discuss financial position, requirements and accomplishments;
comparisons to our other portfolio companies in the industry, if any;
attendance at and participation in board meetings; and/or
review of monthly and quarterly financial statements and financial projections for portfolio companies.
As part of our valuation procedures, we risk rate all of our investments including loans. In general, our rating system uses a scale of 1 to 8, with 1 being the lowest probability of default and principal loss. Our internal rating is not an exact system, but is used internally to estimate the probability of: (i) default on our debt securities and (ii) loss of our debt or investment principal, in the event of a default. In general, our internal rating system may also assist our valuation team in its determination of the estimated fair value of equity securities or equity-like securities. Our internal risk rating system generally encompasses both qualitative and quantitative aspects of our portfolio companies.
Our internal loan and investment risk rating system incorporates the following eight categories:
Acceptable — Highest Quality — Loans or investments that exhibit strong financial condition and repayment capacity supported by adequate financial information. Generally, as loans these credits are well secured by marketable collateral. These credits are current and have not demonstrated a history of late-pay or delinquency. There are no or few credit administration weaknesses. This score represents a combination of a strong acceptable credit and adequate or better credit administration. Newly underwritten loans or investments may be rated in this category if they clearly possess above-average attributes in all of the above areas. In general, as investments these credits are performing within our internal expectations, and potential risks to the applicable investment are considered to be neutral or favorable compared to any potential risks at the time of the original investment.
Acceptable — Average Quality — These loans or investments are supported by financial condition and repayment strengths that offset marginal weaknesses. Generally, as loans these credits are secured but may be less than fully secured. These loans are current or less than 30 days past due and may or may not have a history of late payments. They may contain non-material credit administration weaknesses or errors in verifying that do not put the guaranty at risk or cause wrong or poor credit decisions to be made. This risk rating should also be used to assign an initial risk rating to loans or investments that are recommended for approval by underwriting. Without a performance history and/or identified credit administration deficiencies, emphasis should be placed on meeting or exceeding underwriting standards collateral protection, industry experience, and guarantor strength. It is expected that most of our underwritten loans will be of this quality.
Acceptable — Below Average — These loans or investments are the low-end range of acceptable. Loans would be less than fully secured and probably have a history of late pay and/or delinquency, though not severe. They contain one or more credit administration weaknesses that do not put the guaranty at risk or cause wrong or poor credit decisions to be made. This risk rating may also be used to identify new loans or investments that may not meet or exceed all underwriting standards, but are approved because of offsetting strengths in other areas. These credits, while of acceptable quality, typically do not possess the same strengths as those in the 1 or 2 categories. In general, the investment may be performing below internal expectations and quantitative or qualitative risks may have increased materially since the date of the investment.
Other Assets Especially Mentioned (OAEM or Special Mention) — Strong — These loans or investments are currently protected by sound worth and cash flow or other paying capacity, but exhibit a potentially higher risk situation than acceptable credits. While there is an undue or unwarranted credit risk, it is not yet to the point of justifying a substandard classification. Generally, these loans demonstrate some delinquency history and contain credit administration weaknesses. Performance may show signs of slippage, but can still be corrected. Credit does not require a specific allowance at this point but a risk of loss is present.
Substandard — Workout — These assets contain well defined weaknesses and are inadequately protected by the current sound worth and paying capacity of the borrower. Generally, loan collateral protects to a significant extent. There is a possibility of loss if the deficiencies are not corrected and secondary sources may have to be used to repay credit. Credit administration can range from very good to adequate indicating one or more oversights, errors, or omissions which are considered significant but not seriously misleading or causing an error in the loan decision. Performance has slipped and there are well-defined weaknesses. A specific allowance is in order or risk of loss is present.
Substandard — Liquidation — These assets contain well defined weaknesses and are inadequately protected by the current sound worth and paying capacity of the borrower or investee. In addition, the weaknesses are so severe that resurrection of the credit is unlikely. For loans, secondary sources will have to be used for repayment. Credits in this category would be severely stressed, nonperforming, and the business may be non-viable. There could be character and significant credit administration issues as well. A specific allowance should be established or the lack of one clearly justified.
Doubtful — This classification contains all of the weaknesses inherent in a substandard classification but with the added characteristic that the weaknesses make collection or repayment of principal in full, on the basis of existing facts, conditions and values, highly questionable and improbable. The probability of loss is very high, but the exact amount may not be estimable at the current point in time. Loans in this category are severely stressed, generally non-performing and/or involve a non-viable operation. Collateral may be difficult to value because of limited salability, no ready and available market, or unknown location or condition of the collateral. Credit administration weaknesses can range from few to severe and may jeopardize the credit as well as the guaranty. All such loans or investments should have a specific allowance.
Loss — Loans or investments classified as loss are considered uncollectible and of such little value that their continuance as bankable assets is no longer warranted. This classification does not mean that the credit has no recovery or salvage value but, rather, it is not practical to defer writing off this asset. It is also possible that the credit decision cannot be supported by the credit administration process. Documents and verification are lacking; analysis is poor or undocumented, there is no assurance that the loan is eligible or that a correct credit decision was made. Loss loans are loans where a loss total can be clearly estimated. Losses should be taken during the period in which they are identified.
We will monitor and, when appropriate, change the investment ratings assigned to each loan or investment in our portfolio. In connection with our valuation process, our management will review these investment ratings on a quarterly basis, and our
Board will affirm such ratings. The investment rating of a particular investment should not, however, be deemed to be a guarantee of the investment’s future performance.
Historically, we have provided significant operating and managerial assistance to our portfolio companies and our controlled portfolio companies. As a BDC, we will continue to offer, and must provide upon request, managerial assistance to our portfolio companies. This assistance will typically involve, among other things, monitoring the operations and financial performance of our portfolio companies, participating in board and management meetings, consulting with and advising officers of portfolio companies and providing other organizational and financial assistance. We may sometimes receive fees for these services.
We conduct the valuation of our assets, pursuant to which our net asset value shall be determined, at all times consistent with GAAP and the 1940 Act. Our valuation procedures are set forth in more detail below:
Securities for which market quotations are readily available on an exchange shall be valued at such price as of the closing price on the day of valuation. We may also obtain quotes with respect to certain of our investments from pricing services or brokers or dealers in order to value assets. When doing so, we will determine whether the quote obtained is sufficient according to GAAP to determine the fair value of the security. If determined adequate, we will use the quote obtained. We also employ independent third party valuation firms for certain of our investments for which there is not a readily available market value.
Securities for which reliable market quotations are not readily available or for which the pricing source does not provide a valuation or methodology or provides a valuation or methodology that, in the judgment of our Board, does not represent fair value, which we expect will represent a substantial majority of the investments in our portfolio, shall be valued as follows: (i) each portfolio company or investment is initially valued by the investment professionals responsible for the portfolio investment; (ii) preliminary valuation conclusions are documented and discussed with our Senior Lending Team and Executive Committee; (iii) independent third-party valuation firms engaged by, or on behalf of, the Board will conduct independent appraisals, review management’s preliminary valuations and prepare separate preliminary valuation conclusions on a selected basis; (iv) the Board reviews the preliminary valuations of members of our Senior Lending Team and Executive Committee and/or that of the third party valuation firm and responds to the valuation recommendation with comments, if any; and (v) the Board will discuss valuations and determine the fair value of each investment in our portfolio in good faith.
Determination of fair value involves subjective judgments and estimates not susceptible to substantiation by auditing procedures. Accordingly, under current auditing standards, the notes to our financial statements will refer to the uncertainty with respect to the possible effect of such valuations, and any change in such valuations, on our financial statements.
The determination of fair value will generally be based on the following factors, as relevant:
the nature and realizable value of any collateral;
adherence to the portfolio company’s business plan and compliance with covenants;
periodic and regular contact with the portfolio company’s management to discuss financial position, requirements and accomplishments;
comparison to portfolio companies in the same industry, if any;
the portfolio company’s ability to make payments;
the portfolio company’s earnings and discounted cash flow;
the markets in which the portfolio company does business; and
comparisons to publicly traded securities.
Securities for which market quotations are not readily available or for which a pricing source is not sufficient may include, but are not limited to, the following:
private placements and restricted securities that do not have an active trading market;
securities whose trading has been suspended or for which market quotes are no longer available;
debt securities that have recently gone into default and for which there is no current market;
securities whose prices are stale;
securities affected by significant events; and
securities that our investment professionals believe were priced incorrectly.
We compete for SBA 7(a) and other SMB loans with other financial institutions and various SMB lenders, as well as other sources of funding. Additionally, competition for investment opportunities has emerged among alternative investment vehicles, such as collateralized loan obligations, some of which are sponsored by other alternative asset investors, as these entities have begun to focus on making investments in SMBs. As a result of these new entrants, competition for our investment opportunities may intensify. Many of these entities have greater financial and managerial resources than we do but we believe that they invariably lack the ability to process loans as quickly as we can and do not have the depth of our customer service capabilities. We believe we will be able to compete with these entities primarily on the basis of our financial technology infrastructure, our experience and reputation, our deep industry knowledge and ability to provide customized business solutions, our willingness to make smaller investments than other specialty finance companies, the breadth of our contacts, our responsive and efficient investment analysis and decision-making processes, and the investment terms we offer.
We and our controlled portfolio companies compete in a large number of markets for the sale of financial and other services to SMBs. Each of our controlled portfolio companies competes not only against suppliers in its particular state or region of the country but also against suppliers operating on a national or even a multi-national scale. None of the markets in which our controlled portfolio companies compete are dominated by a small number of companies that could materially alter the terms of the competition.
Our electronic payment processing portfolio companies compete with entities including Heartland Payment Systems, First National Bank of Omaha and Paymentech, L.P. Our managed technology solutions portfolio company competes with 1&1, Hosting.com, Discount ASP, Maxum ASP, GoDaddy®, Yahoo!®, BlueHost®, iPowerWeb® and Microsoft Live among others.
Our small business finance platform competes with regional and national banks and non-bank lenders. Intuit® is bundling electronic payment processing, web hosting and payroll services similar to ours in offerings that compete in the same small-to midsize-business market.
In many cases, we believe that our competitors are not as able as we are to take advantage of changes in business practices due to technological developments and, for those with a larger size, are unable to offer the personalized service that many SMB owners and operators desire.
While we compete with many different providers in our various businesses, we have been unable to identify any direct and comprehensive competitors that deliver the same broad suite of services focused on the needs of the SMB market with the same marketing strategy as we do. Some of the competitive advantages of our platform include:
compatible products such as our e-commerce offerings that we are able to bundle to increase sales, reduce costs and reduce risks for our customers and enable us to sell two, three, or four products at the same time;
the patented NewTracker® referral system, which allows us and our portfolio companies to process new business utilizing a web-based, centralized processing point and provides back end scalability, and allows our alliance partners to offer a centralized access point for their SMB clients as part of their larger strategic approach to marketing, thus demonstrating their focus on providing a suite of services to the SMB market in addition to their core service;
the focus on developing and marketing business solutions and financial products and services aimed at the SMB market;
scalability, which allows us to size our business solutions capabilities very quickly to meet customer and market needs;
the ability to offer personalized service and competitive rates;
a strategy of multiple channel distribution, which gives us maximum exposure in the marketplace;
high quality customer service 24/7/365 across all business lines, with a focus primarily on absolute customer service and;
a telephonic interview process, as opposed to requiring handwritten or data-typing processes, which allows us to offer high levels of customer service and satisfaction, particularly for SMB owners who do not get this service from our competitors
Revenues by Geographic Area
During the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014, virtually all of our revenue was derived from customers in the United States, although our controlled portfolio company, NTS, which was a consolidated subsidiary for the period January 1, 2014 through November 11, 2014, provided pre-paid web site hosting services to customers in approximately 162 countries.
As of December 31, 2016, we had a total of 137 employees.
We are subject to the informational requirements of the Securities Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) and in accordance with those requirements file reports, proxy statements and other information with the SEC. You may read and copy the reports, proxy statements and other information that we file with the SEC under the informational requirements of the Securities Exchange Act at the SEC’s Public Reference Room at 450 Fifth Street N.W., Washington, DC 20549. Please call 1-800-SEC-0339 for information about the SEC’s Public Reference Room. The SEC also maintains a web site that contains reports, proxy and information statements and other information regarding registrants that file electronically with the SEC. The address of the SEC’s web site is http://www.sec.gov. Our principal offices are located at 1981 Marcus Avenue, Suite 130, Lake Success, NY 11042 and our telephone number is (212) 356-9500. Our website may be directly accessed at http://www.newtekone.com. We make available through our website, free of charge, our Annual Reports on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file such material with, or furnish it to, the SEC. These documents may be directly accessed at http://investor.newtekbusinessservices.com. Information contained on our website is not a part of this report.
We may apply for a Small Business Investment Company, or “SBIC,” license from the SBA if we believe that it will further our investment strategy and enhance our returns. If this application is approved, our SBIC subsidiary would be a wholly owned subsidiary and able to rely on an exclusion from the definition of “investment company” under the 1940 Act. Our SBIC subsidiary would have an investment objective substantially similar to ours and would be able to make similar types of investments in accordance with SBIC regulations.
We have elected to be regulated as a BDC under the 1940 Act and elected to be treated, and intend to qualify annually thereafter, as a RIC under Subchapter M of the Code, beginning with our 2015 taxable year. As with other companies regulated by the 1940 Act, a BDC must adhere to certain substantive regulatory requirements. The 1940 Act contains prohibitions and restrictions relating to transactions between BDCs and their affiliates (including any investment advisers or sub-advisers), principal underwriters and affiliates of those affiliates or underwriters. The 1940 Act also requires that a majority of the directors of the BDC be persons other than “interested persons,” as that term is defined in the 1940 Act. In addition, the 1940 Act provides that we may not change the nature of our business so as to cease to be, or to withdraw our election as, a BDC unless approved by “a majority of our outstanding voting securities” as defined in the 1940 Act. A majority of the outstanding voting securities of a company is defined under the 1940 Act as the lesser of: (i) 67% or more of such company’s outstanding voting securities present at a meeting if more than 50% of the outstanding voting securities of such company are present and represented by proxy or (ii) more than 50% of the outstanding
shares of such company. Our bylaws provide for the calling of a special meeting of shareholders at which such action could be considered upon written notice of not less than ten or more than sixty days before the date of such meeting.
We may also purchase or otherwise receive warrants to purchase the common stock of our portfolio companies in connection with acquisition financing or other investments. Similarly, in connection with an acquisition, we may acquire rights to require the issuers of acquired securities or their affiliates to repurchase them under certain circumstances. As of December 31, 2016, we held no investments in publicly traded securities. As a BDC, we are generally required to meet an asset coverage ratio, defined under the 1940 Act as the ratio of our gross assets (less all liabilities and indebtedness not represented by senior securities) to our outstanding senior securities, of at least 200% after each issuance of senior securities.
We may also be prohibited under the 1940 Act from knowingly participating in certain transactions with our affiliates without the prior approval of our Board who are not interested persons and, in some cases, prior approval by the SEC. For example, under the 1940 Act, absent receipt of exemptive relief from the SEC, we and our affiliates may be precluded from co-investing in private placements of securities. As a result of one or more of these situations, we may not be able to invest as much as we otherwise would in certain investments or may not be able to liquidate a position as quickly.
NSBF is licensed by the SBA as a small business lending company (“SBLC”) that originates loans through the SBA 7(a) Program. In order to operate as an SBLC, NSBF is required to maintain a minimum regulatory capital (as defined by SBA regulations) of the greater of (1) 10% of its outstanding loans receivable and other investments or (2) $1.0 million. Moreover, before consenting to a securitization, NSBF and other securitizers must be considered well capitalized by the SBA. For NSBF and other SBLC securitizers, the SBA will consider it well capitalized if it maintains a minimum unencumbered paid in capital and paid in surplus equal to at least 10 percent of its assets, excluding the guaranteed portion of 7(a) loans. In addition, an SBLC is subject to certain other regulatory restrictions. Among other things, SBLCs also are required to submit to the SBA for review a credit policy that demonstrates the SBLC’s compliance with the applicable regulations and the SBA’s Standard Operating Procedures for origination, servicing and liquidation of 7(a) loans; submit to the SBA for review and approval annual validation, with supporting documentation and methodologies, demonstrating that any scoring model used by the SBLC is predictive of loan performance; obtain SBA approval for loan securitization and borrowings; and adopt and fully implement an internal control policy which provides adequate direction for effective control over and accountability for operations, programs, and resources.
Pursuant to the SBA’s regulations, the SBA is released from liability on its guaranty of a 7(a) loan and may, in its sole discretion, refuse to honor a guaranty purchase request in full or in part, or recover all or part of the funds already paid in connection with a guaranty purchase, if the lender failed to comply materially with a program requirement; failed to make, close, service or liquidate the loan in a prudent manner; placed the SBA at risk through improper action or inaction; failed to disclose a material fact to the SBA in a timely manner; or misrepresented a material fact to the SBA regarding the loan. In certain instances, the SBA may require a specific dollar amount be deducted from the funds the SBA pays on the lender's guaranty in order to fully compensate for an actual or anticipated loss caused by the lender’s actions or omissions. Such repair does not reduce the percent of the loan guaranteed by SBA or SBA’s pro-rata share of expenses or recoveries.
The SBA also restricts the ability of an SBLC to lend money to any of its officers, directors and employees or to invest in associates thereof. The SBA also prohibits, without prior SBA approval, a “change of control” of an SBLC. A “change of control” is any event which would result in the transfer of the power, direct or indirect, to direct the management and policies of a SBLC, whether through ownership, contractual arrangements or otherwise. SBLCs are periodically examined and audited by the SBA to determine compliance with SBA regulations.
On July 27, 2016, at our Special Meeting of Shareholders, our shareholders approved a proposal that authorizes us to sell up to 20% of our Common Stock at a price below the Company’s then-current net asset value, or NAV, per share, subject to certain conditions. Any decision to sell shares of our Common Stock below the then current NAV per share of our Common Stock, or securities to subscribe to, convert to, or purchase shares of our Common Stock, would be subject to the determination by our Board that such issuance is in our and our shareholders’ best interests.
Under the 1940 Act, a BDC may not acquire any asset other than assets of the type listed in Section 55(a) of the 1940 Act, which are referred to as qualifying assets, unless, at the time the acquisition is made, qualifying assets represent at least 70% of the company's total assets. The principal categories of qualifying assets relevant to our business are any of the following:
Securities purchased in transactions not involving any public offering from the issuer of such securities, which issuer (subject to certain limited exceptions) is an eligible portfolio company (as defined below), or from any person who is,
or has been during the preceding 13 months, an affiliated person of an eligible portfolio company, or from any other person, subject to such rules as may be prescribed by the SEC.
Securities of any eligible portfolio company that we control.
Securities purchased in a private transaction from a U.S. issuer that is not an investment company or from an affiliated person of the issuer, or in transactions incident thereto, if the issuer is in bankruptcy and subject to reorganization or if the issuer, immediately prior to the purchase of its securities was unable to meet its obligations as they came due without material assistance other than conventional lending or financing arrangements.
Securities of an eligible portfolio company purchased from any person in a private transaction if there is no ready market for such securities and we already own 60% of the outstanding equity of the eligible portfolio company.
Securities received in exchange for or distributed on or with respect to securities described in (1) through (4) above, or pursuant to the exercise of warrants or rights relating to such securities.
Cash, cash equivalents, U.S. government securities or high-quality debt securities maturing in one year or less from the time of investment.
In addition, a BDC must have been organized and have its principal place of business in the United States and must be operated for the purpose of making investments in the types of securities described in (1), (2) or (3) above.
An eligible portfolio company is defined in the 1940 Act as any issuer which:
is organized under the laws of, and has its principal place of business in, the United States;
is not an investment company (other than a small business investment company wholly owned by the BDC) or a company that would be an investment company but for certain exclusions under the 1940 Act; and
satisfies any of the following:
does not have any class of securities that is traded on a national securities exchange or has a class of securities listed on a national securities exchange but has an aggregate market value of outstanding voting and non-voting common equity of less than $250 million;
is controlled by a BDC or a group of companies including a BDC and the BDC has an affiliated person who is a director of the eligible portfolio company; or
is a small and solvent company having total assets of not more than $4 million and capital and surplus of not less than $2 million.
Control, as defined by the 1940 Act, is presumed to exist where a BDC beneficially owns more than 25% of the outstanding voting securities of the portfolio company.
We do not intend to acquire securities issued by any investment company that exceed the limits imposed by the 1940 Act. Under these limits, we generally cannot acquire more than 3% of the voting stock of any investment company (as defined in the 1940 Act), invest more than 5% of the value of our total assets in the securities of one such investment company or invest more than 10% of the value of our total assets in the securities of such investment companies in the aggregate. With regard to that portion of our portfolio invested in securities issued by investment companies, it should be noted that such investments might subject our shareholders to additional expenses. None of our investment policies are fundamental and any may be changed without shareholder approval.
Significant Managerial Assistance
A BDC must be operated for the purpose of making investments in the types of securities described above. However, in order to count portfolio securities as qualifying assets for the purpose of the 70% test, the BDC must either control the issuer of the securities or must offer to make available to the issuer of the securities (other than small and solvent companies described above) significant managerial assistance; except that, where the BDC purchases such securities in conjunction with one or more other persons acting together, one of the other persons in the group may make available such managerial assistance. Making
available significant managerial assistance means, among other things, any arrangement whereby the BDC, through its directors, officers or employees, offers to provide, and, if accepted, does so provide, significant guidance and counsel concerning the management, operations or business objectives and policies of a portfolio company through monitoring of portfolio company operations, selective participation in board and management meetings, consulting with and advising a portfolio company’s officers or other organizational or financial guidance.
Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (the “Sarbanes-Oxley Act”) imposes a wide variety of regulatory requirements on publicly-held companies and their insiders. Many of these requirements affect us. For example:
pursuant to Rule 13a-14 of the 1934 Act, our Chief Executive Officer and Chief Accounting Officer must certify the accuracy of the consolidated financial statements contained in our periodic reports;
pursuant to Item 307 of Regulation S-K, our periodic reports must disclose our conclusions about the effectiveness of our disclosure controls and procedures;
pursuant to Rule 13a-15 of the 1934 Act, our management must prepare a report regarding its assessment of our internal controls over financial reporting; and
pursuant to Item 308 of Regulation S-K and Rule 13a-15 of the 1934 Act, our periodic reports must disclose whether there were significant changes in our internal controls or in other factors that could significantly affect these controls subsequent to the date of their evaluation, including any corrective actions with regard to significant deficiencies and material weaknesses.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires us to review our current policies and procedures to determine whether we comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the regulations promulgated thereunder. We will continue to monitor our compliance with all regulations that are adopted under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and will take actions necessary to ensure that we are in compliance therewith.
Issuance of Additional Shares
We are not generally able to issue and sell our common stock at a price below NAV. We may, however, issue and sell our common stock, at a price below the current NAV of the common stock, or issue and sell warrants, options or rights to acquire such common stock, at a price below the current NAV of the common stock if our Board determines that such sale is in our best interest and in the best interests of our shareholders, and our shareholders have approved our policy and practice of making such sales within the preceding 12 months. At our July 27, 2016 Special Meeting of Shareholders, our shareholders approved a proposal that authorizes us to sell up to 20% of our Common Stock at a price below the Company’s then-current NAV per share, subject to certain conditions. From July 27, 2016 to date, we have not sold shares of our Common Stock at prices below the Company’s then-current NAV per share, but we may do so in the future. In any such case, the price at which our securities are to be issued and sold may not be less than a price which, in the determination of our Board, closely approximates the market value of such securities.
In addition, under the 1940 Act, a BDC is subject to restrictions on the amount of warrants, options, restricted stock or rights to purchase shares of capital stock that it may have outstanding at any time. In particular, the amount of capital stock that would result from the conversion or exercise of all outstanding warrants, options or rights to purchase capital stock cannot exceed 25% of the BDC’s total outstanding shares of capital stock. This amount is reduced to 20% of the BDC’s total outstanding shares of capital stock if the amount of warrants, options or rights issued pursuant to an executive compensation plan would exceed 15% of the BDC’s total outstanding shares of capital stock.
In April 2015, we filed a request with the SEC for exemptive relief to allow us to (i) issue restricted stock awards to our officers, employees and directors and (ii) issue stock options to our nonemployee directors. In May 2016, the SEC issued an order granting the Company’s request for exemptive relief to allow us to amend our equity compensation plan and make such grants and awards, subject to shareholder approval. In July 2016, shareholders approved the amendments to our equity compensation plan, and certain restricted stock awards granted thereunder.
Pending investment in other types of qualifying assets, as described above, our investments may consist of cash, cash equivalents, U.S. government securities or high quality debt securities maturing in one year or less from the time of investment,
which we refer to, collectively, as temporary investments, so that 70% of our assets are qualifying assets. Typically, we will invest in U.S. treasury bills or in repurchase agreements, provided that such agreements are fully collateralized by cash or securities issued by the U.S. government or its agencies. A repurchase agreement involves the purchase by an investor, such as us, of a specified security and the simultaneous agreement by the seller to repurchase it at an agreed upon future date and at a price which is greater than the purchase price by an amount that reflects an agreed-upon interest rate. There is no percentage restriction on the proportion of our assets that may be invested in such repurchase agreements. However, if more than 25% of our total assets constitute repurchase agreements from a single counterparty, we would not meet the diversification tests imposed on us by the Code in order to qualify as a RIC for federal income tax purposes. Thus, we do not intend to enter into repurchase agreements with a single counterparty in excess of this limit. We will monitor the creditworthiness of the counterparties with which we enter into repurchase agreement transactions.
Senior Securities; Coverage Ratio
We are permitted, under specified conditions, to issue multiple classes of indebtedness and one class of stock senior to our common stock if our asset coverage, as defined in the 1940 Act, is at least equal to 200% immediately after each such issuance. In addition, we may not be permitted to declare any cash dividend or other distribution on our outstanding common shares, or purchase any such shares, unless, at the time of such declaration or purchase, we have asset coverage of at least 200% after deducting the amount of such dividend, distribution, or purchase price. We may also borrow amounts up to 5% of the value of our total assets for temporary or emergency purposes. For a discussion of the risks associated with the resulting leverage, see “Risk Factors - Risks Related to Our Business and Structure - Because we borrow money, the potential for loss on amounts invested in us is magnified and may increase the risk of investing in us.”
Code of Ethics
We have adopted a code of ethics pursuant to Rule 17j-1 under the 1940 Act that establishes procedures for personal investments and restricts certain transactions by our personnel. Our code of ethics generally will not permit investments by our employees in securities that may be purchased or held by us. You may read and copy our code of ethics at the SEC’s Public Reference Room in Washington, D.C. You may obtain information on the operation of the Public Reference Room by calling the SEC at 1-800-SEC-0330. In addition, the code of ethics is published and available on the Company’s website at http://investor.newtekbusinessservices.com/corporate-governance.cfm and on the EDGAR database on the SEC website at www.sec.gov.
Proxy Voting Policies and Procedures
We vote proxies relating to our portfolio securities in a manner in which we believe is in the best interest of our shareholders. We review on a case-by-case basis each proposal submitted to a shareholder vote to determine its impact on the portfolio securities held by us. Although we generally vote against proposals that may have a negative impact on our portfolio securities, we may vote for such a proposal if there exists compelling long-term reasons to do so.
Our proxy voting decisions are made by our Senior Lending Team and our Executive Committee, which are responsible for monitoring each of our investments. To ensure that our vote is not the product of a conflict of interest, we require that: (i) anyone involved in the decision making process disclose to our chief compliance officer any potential conflict that he or she is aware of and any contact that he or she has had with any interested party regarding a proxy vote; and (ii) employees involved in the decision making process or vote administration are prohibited from revealing how we intend to vote on a proposal in order to reduce any attempted influence from interested parties.
Stockholders may obtain information regarding how we voted proxies with respect to our portfolio securities by making a written request for information to: Chief Compliance Officer, 1981 Marcus Avenue, Suite 130, Lake Success, New York 11042.
We will be periodically examined by the SEC for compliance with the Exchange Act and the 1940 Act.
We are required to provide and maintain a bond issued by a reputable fidelity insurance company to protect us against larceny and embezzlement. Furthermore, as a BDC, we are prohibited from protecting any director or officer against any liability to our shareholders arising from willful misfeasance, bad faith, gross negligence or reckless disregard of the duties involved in the conduct of such person’s office.
We have adopted and implemented written policies and procedures reasonably designed to prevent violation of the federal securities laws, review these policies and procedures annually for their adequacy and the effectiveness of their implementation. We have designated Michael Schwartz, the Company's Chief Legal Officer, to be our chief compliance officer, and to be responsible for administering these policies and procedures.
We are committed to maintaining the privacy of our shareholders and to safeguarding their non-public personal information. The following information is provided to help you understand what personal information we collect, how we protect that information and why, in certain cases, we may share information with select other parties.
Generally, we do not receive any non-public personal information relating to our shareholders, although certain non-public personal information of our shareholders may become available to us. We do not disclose any non-public personal information about our shareholders or former shareholders to anyone, except as permitted by law or as is necessary in order to service shareholder accounts (for example, to a transfer agent or third-party administrator).We will maintain physical, electronic and procedural safeguards designed to protect the non-public personal information of our shareholders.
Nasdaq Global Market Requirements
We have adopted certain policies and procedures intended to comply with the Nasdaq Global Market’s corporate governance rules. We will continue to monitor our compliance with all future listing standards that are approved by the SEC and will take actions necessary to ensure that we are in compliance therewith.
Election to be Taxed as a RIC
As a BDC, we elected to be treated, and intend to qualify annually thereafter, as a RIC under Subchapter M of the Code, beginning with our 2015 taxable year. As a RIC, we generally will not have to pay corporate-level U.S. federal income taxes on any income that we distribute to our shareholders as dividends. To maintain our qualification as a RIC, we must, among other things, meet certain source-of-income and asset diversification requirements (as described below). In addition, to qualify for RIC tax treatment we must distribute to our shareholders, for each taxable year, at least 90% of our “investment company taxable income,” which is generally our ordinary income plus the excess of our realized net short-term capital gains over our realized net long-term capital losses (the “Annual Distribution Requirement”).
Taxation as a Regulated Investment Company
For any taxable year in which we:
satisfy the Annual Distribution Requirement,
We generally will not be subject to U.S. federal income tax on the portion of our income we distribute to our shareholders. We will be subject to U.S. federal income tax at the regular corporate rates on any income or capital gains not distributed (or deemed distributed) to our shareholders.
We will be subject to a 4% nondeductible U.S. federal excise tax on certain undistributed income unless we distribute in a timely manner an amount at least equal to the sum of (1) 98% of our net ordinary income for each calendar year, (2) 98.2% of our capital gain net income for the one-year period ending October 31 in that calendar year and (3) any income recognized, but not distributed, in preceding years and on which we paid no corporate-level income tax (the “Excise Tax Avoidance Requirement”). We generally will endeavor in each taxable year to make sufficient distributions to our shareholders to avoid any U.S. federal excise tax on our earnings.
In order to qualify as a RIC for U.S. federal income tax purposes, we must, among other things:
continue to qualify as a BDC under the 1940 Act at all times during each taxable year;
derive in each taxable year at least 90% of our gross income from dividends, interest, payments with respect to loans of certain securities, gains from the sale of stock or other securities, net income from certain “qualified publicly traded partnerships,” or other income derived with respect to our business of investing in such stock or securities (the “90% Income Test”); and
diversify our holdings so that at the end of each quarter of the taxable year:
at least 50% of the value of our assets consists of cash, cash equivalents, U.S. Government securities, securities of other RICs, and other securities if such other securities of any one issuer do not represent more than 5% of the value of our assets or more than 10% of the outstanding voting securities of the issuer; and
no more than 25% of the value of our assets is invested in the securities, other than U.S. government securities or securities of other RICs, of one issuer, of two or more issuers that are controlled, as determined under applicable Code rules, by us and that are engaged in the same or similar or related trades or businesses or of certain “qualified publicly traded partnerships” (the “Diversification Tests”).
Qualified earnings may exclude such income as management fees received in connection with our subsidiaries or other potential outside managed funds and certain other fees.
In accordance with certain applicable Treasury regulations and private letter rulings issued by the IRS, a RIC may treat a distribution of its own stock as fulfilling its RIC distribution requirements if each shareholder may elect to receive his or her entire distribution in either cash or stock of the RIC, subject to a limitation that the aggregate amount of cash to be distributed to all shareholders must be at least 20% of the aggregate declared distribution. If too many shareholders elect to receive cash, each shareholder electing to receive cash must receive a pro rata amount of cash (with the balance of the distribution paid in stock). In no event will any shareholder, electing to receive cash, receive less than 20% of his or her entire distribution in cash. If these and certain other requirements are met, for U.S. federal income tax purposes, the amount of the dividend paid in stock will be equal to the amount of cash that could have been received instead of stock. In connection with our intended election to be treated as a RIC for tax purposes, on December 31, 2015, we paid a special dividend to distribute the earnings and profits that we accumulated before our 2015 tax year. That dividend was paid 27% in cash and 73% in shares of our common stock. We have no current intention of paying dividends in shares of our stock in accordance with these Treasury regulations or private letter rulings.
We may be required to recognize taxable income in circumstances in which we do not receive cash. For example, if we hold debt obligations that are treated under applicable tax rules as having original issue discount (such as debt instruments with PIK interest or, in certain cases, increasing interest rates or issued with warrants), we must include in income each year a portion of the original issue discount that accrues over the life of the obligation, regardless of whether cash representing such income is received by us in the same taxable year. We may also have to include in income other amounts that we have not yet received in cash, such as PIK interest, deferred loan origination fees that are paid after origination of the loan or are paid in non-cash compensation such as warrants or stock, or certain income with respect to equity investments in foreign corporations. Because any original issue discount or other amounts accrued will be included in our investment company taxable income for the year of accrual, we may be required to make a distribution to our shareholders in order to satisfy the Annual Distribution Requirement, even though we will not have received any corresponding cash amount.
Gain or loss realized by us from the sale or exchange of warrants acquired by us as well as any loss attributable to the lapse of such warrants generally will be treated as capital gain or loss. Such gain or loss generally will be long-term or short-term, depending on how long we held a particular warrant.
Although we do not presently expect to do so, we are authorized to borrow funds and to sell assets in order to satisfy applicable distribution requirements. However, under the 1940 Act, we are not permitted to make distributions to our shareholders while our debt obligations and other senior securities are outstanding unless certain “asset coverage” tests are met. Moreover, our ability to dispose of assets to meet our distribution requirements may be limited by (1) the illiquid nature of our portfolio and/or (2) other requirements relating to our status as a RIC, including the Diversification Tests. If we dispose of assets in order to meet the Annual Distribution Requirement or the Excise Tax Avoidance Requirement, we may make such dispositions at times that, from an investment standpoint, are not advantageous. If we are prohibited from making distributions or are unable to obtain cash from other sources to make the distributions, we may fail to qualify as a RIC, which would result in us becoming subject to corporate-level federal income tax.
In addition, we will be partially dependent on our subsidiaries for cash distributions to enable us to meet the RIC distribution requirements. Some of our subsidiaries may be limited by the Small Business Investment Act of 1958, as amended and SBA regulations, from making certain distributions to us that may be necessary to maintain our status as a RIC. We may have to request a waiver of the SBA’s restrictions for our subsidiaries to make certain distributions to maintain our RIC status. We cannot assure you that the SBA will grant such waiver. If our subsidiaries are unable to obtain a waiver, compliance with the SBA regulations may cause us to fail to qualify as a RIC, which would result in us becoming subject to corporate-level federal income tax.
The remainder of this discussion assumes that we will qualify as a RIC and will have satisfied the Annual Distribution Requirement for the year ended December 31, 2016.
Any transactions in options, futures contracts, constructive sales, hedging, straddle, conversion or similar transactions, and forward contracts will be subject to special tax rules, the effect of which may be to accelerate income to us, defer losses, cause adjustments to the holding periods of our investments, convert long-term capital gains into short-term capital gains, convert short-term capital losses into long-term capital losses or have other tax consequences. These rules could affect the amount, timing and character of distributions to shareholders. We do not currently intend to engage in these types of transactions.
A RIC is limited in its ability to deduct expenses in excess of its “investment company taxable income.” If our expenses in a given year exceed gross taxable income (e.g., as the result of large amounts of equity-based compensation), we would experience a net operating loss for that year. However, a RIC is not permitted to carry forward net operating losses to subsequent years. In addition, expenses can be used only to offset investment company taxable income, not net capital gain. Due to these limits on the deductibility of expenses, we may, for tax purposes, have aggregate taxable income for several years that we are required to distribute and that is taxable to our shareholders even if such income is greater than the aggregate net income we actually earned during those years. Such required distributions may be made from our cash assets or by liquidation of investments, if necessary. We may realize gains or losses from such liquidations. In the event we realize net capital gains from such transactions, you may receive a larger capital gain distribution than you would have received in the absence of such transactions.
Investment income received from sources within foreign countries, or capital gains earned by investing in securities of foreign issuers, may be subject to foreign income taxes withheld at the source. In this regard, withholding tax rates in countries with which the United States does not have a tax treaty are often as high as 35% or more. The United States has entered into tax treaties with many foreign countries that may entitle us to a reduced rate of tax or exemption from tax on this related income and gains. The effective rate of foreign tax cannot be determined at this time since the amount of our assets to be invested within various countries is not now known. Additionally, we do not anticipate being eligible for the special election that allows a RIC to treat foreign income taxes paid by such RIC as paid by its shareholders.
If we acquire stock in certain foreign corporations that receive at least 75% of their annual gross income from passive sources (such as interest, dividends, rents, royalties or capital gain) or hold at least 50% of their total assets in investments producing such passive income (“passive foreign investment companies”), we could be subject to federal income tax and additional interest charges on “excess distributions” received from such companies or gain from the sale of stock in such companies, even if all income or gain actually received by us is timely distributed to our shareholders. We would not be able to pass through to our shareholders any credit or deduction for such a tax. Certain elections may, if available, ameliorate these adverse tax consequences, but any such election requires us to recognize taxable income or gain without the concurrent receipt of cash. We intend to limit and/or manage our holdings in passive foreign investment companies to minimize our tax liability.
Foreign exchange gains and losses realized by us in connection with certain transactions involving non-dollar debt securities, certain foreign currency futures contracts, foreign currency option contracts, foreign currency forward contracts, foreign currencies, or payables or receivables denominated in a foreign currency are subject to Code provisions that generally treat such gains and losses as ordinary income and losses and may affect the amount, timing and character of distributions to our shareholders. Any such transactions that are not directly related to our investment in securities (possibly including speculative currency positions or currency derivatives not used for hedging purposes) could, under future Treasury regulations, produce income not among the types of “qualifying income” from which a RIC must derive at least 90% of its annual gross income.
Failure to Qualify as a RIC
If we fail to satisfy the Annual Distribution Requirement or fail to qualify as a RIC in any taxable year, assuming we do not qualify for or take advantage of certain remedial provisions, we will be subject to tax in that year on all of our taxable income, regardless of whether we make any distributions to our shareholders. In that case, all of our income will be subject to corporate-level federal income tax, reducing the amount available to be distributed to our shareholders. In contrast, assuming we qualify as a RIC, our corporate-level federal income tax liability should be substantially reduced or eliminated. See “Election to be Taxed as a RIC” above.
If we are unable to maintain our status as a RIC, we would be subject to tax on all of our taxable income at regular corporate rates. We would not be able to deduct distributions to shareholders, nor would they be required to be made. Distributions would generally be taxable to our shareholders as ordinary distribution income eligible for reduced maximum tax rates to the extent of our current and accumulated earnings and profits. Subject to certain limitations under the Code, dividends paid by us to corporate distributees would be eligible for the dividends received deduction. Distributions in excess of our current and accumulated earnings and profits would be treated first as a return of capital to the extent of the shareholder’s tax basis in our common stock, and any remaining distributions would be treated as a capital gain.
ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS
The following is a summary of the risk factors that we believe are most relevant to our business. These are factors that, individually or in the aggregate, we think could cause our actual results to differ significantly from anticipated or historical results. If any of the following risks occur, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected. In that case, the value of our common stock could decline and shareholders may lose all or part of their investment. You should understand that it is not possible to predict or identify all such factors. Consequently, you should not consider the following to be a complete discussion of all potential risks or uncertainties. We undertake no obligation to publicly update forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise, unless required by law.
RISKS RELATING TO OUR BUSINESS AND STRUCTURE
Throughout our 19 year history we have never operated as a BDC until we converted on November 12, 2014.
Although Newtek has operated since 1998, we have limited operating history as a BDC. As a result, we can offer no assurance that we will achieve our investment objective and that the value of any investment in our Company will not decline substantially. As a BDC, we are subject to the regulatory requirements of the SEC, in addition to the specific regulatory requirements applicable to BDCs under the 1940 Act and RICs under the Code. Prior to our BDC Conversion, our management did not have any prior experience operating under this BDC regulatory framework, and we may incur substantial additional costs, and expend significant time or other resources, to do so. In addition, we may be unable to generate sufficient revenue from our operations to make or sustain distributions to our shareholders.
Our investment portfolio is recorded at fair value, with our Board having final responsibility for overseeing, reviewing and approving, in good faith, its estimate of fair value and, as a result, there is uncertainty as to the value of our portfolio investments.
Under the 1940 Act, we are required to carry our portfolio investments at market value or, if there is no readily available market value, at fair value as determined by us, with our Board having final responsibility for overseeing, reviewing and approving, in good faith, our estimate of fair value. Typically, there is not a public market for the securities of the privately held companies in which we invest. As a result, we value these securities annually and quarterly at fair value based on various inputs, including management, third-party valuation firms and our audit committee, and with the oversight, review and approval of our Board.
The determination of fair value and consequently, the amount of unrealized gains and losses in our portfolio, are to a certain degree, subjective and dependent on a valuation process approved by our Board. Certain factors that may be considered in determining the fair value of our investments include external events, such as private mergers, sales and acquisitions involving comparable companies. Because such valuations, and particularly valuations of private securities and private companies, are inherently uncertain, they may fluctuate over short periods of time and may be based on estimates. Our determinations of fair value may differ materially from the values that would have been used if a ready market for these securities existed. Due to this uncertainty, our fair value determinations may cause our net asset value on a given date to materially understate or overstate the value that we may ultimately realize on one or more of our investments. As a result, investors purchasing our common stock based on an overstated net asset value would pay a higher price than the value of our investments might warrant. Conversely, investors selling stock during a period in which the net asset value understates the value of our investments will receive a lower price for their stock than the value of our investments might warrant.
Our financial condition and results of operations will depend on our ability to manage and deploy capital effectively.
Our ability to achieve our investment objective will depend on our ability to manage and deploy capital, which will depend, in turn, on our management’s ability to identify, evaluate and monitor, and our ability to finance and invest in, companies that meet our investment criteria.
Accomplishing our investment objective on a cost-effective basis will largely be a function of our management’s handling of the investment process, its ability to provide competent, attentive and efficient services and our access to investments offering acceptable terms. In addition to monitoring the performance of our existing investments, our Senior Lending Team and our Executive Committee is called upon, from time to time, to provide managerial assistance to some of our portfolio companies.
These demands on their time may distract them or slow the rate of investment. Even if we are able to grow and build upon our investment operations, any failure to manage our growth effectively could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects. The results of our operations will depend on many factors, including the availability of opportunities for investment, readily accessible short and long-term funding alternatives in the financial
markets and economic conditions. Furthermore, if we cannot successfully operate our business or implement our investment policies and strategies as described herein, it could negatively impact our ability to pay dividends.
We are dependent upon our Senior Lending Team and our Executive Committee for our future success, and if we are unable to hire and retain qualified personnel or if we lose any member of our Senior Lending Team or our Executive Committee our ability to achieve our investment objective could be significantly harmed.
We depend on our Senior Lending Team and Executive Committee as well as other key personnel for the identification, final selection, structuring, closing and monitoring of our investments. These executive officers and employees have critical industry experience and relationships that we rely on to implement our business plan. Our future success depends on the continued service of our Senior Lending Team and our Executive Committee and the replacement of any departing individuals with others of comparable skills and experience. The departure of any of the members of our Senior Lending Team, our Executive Committee or a significant number of our senior personnel could have a material adverse effect on our ability to achieve our investment objective. As a result, we may not be able to operate our business as we expect, and our ability to compete could be harmed, which could cause our operating results to suffer.
We operate in a highly competitive market for investment opportunities, which could reduce returns and result in losses.
We compete for investments with other financial institutions and various SMB lenders, as well as other sources of funding. Additionally, competition for investment opportunities has emerged among alternative investment vehicles, such as CLOs, some of which are sponsored by other alternative asset investors, as these entities have begun to focus on making investments in SMBs. As a result of these new entrants, competition for our investment opportunities may intensify. Many of our competitors will be substantially larger and have considerably greater financial, technical and marketing resources than us. For example, some competitors may have a lower cost of capital and access to funding sources that will not be available to us. In addition, some of our competitors may have higher risk tolerances or different risk assessments than we will have. These characteristics could allow our competitors to consider a wider variety of investments, establish more relationships and offer better pricing and more flexible structuring than we will be able to offer. We may lose investment opportunities if we do not match our competitors’ pricing, terms and structure. If we are forced to match our competitors’ pricing, terms and structure, we may not be able to achieve acceptable returns on our investments or may bear substantial risk of capital loss. Furthermore, many of our competitors will have greater experience operating under, or will not be subject to, the regulatory restrictions that the 1940 Act will impose on us as a BDC, or the source-of-income, asset diversification, and distribution requirements we must satisfy to maintain our tax treatment as a RIC.
If we are unable to source investments effectively, we may be unable to achieve our investment objective.
Our ability to achieve our investment objective depends on our Senior Lending Team’s and our Executive Committee’s ability to identify, evaluate and invest in suitable companies that meet our investment criteria. Accomplishing this result on a cost-effective basis is largely a function of our marketing capabilities, our management of the investment process, our ability to provide efficient services and our access to financing sources on acceptable terms. In addition to monitoring the performance of our existing investments, members of our Senior Lending Team, our Executive Committee and our other investment professionals may also be called upon to provide managerial assistance to our portfolio companies. These demands on their time may distract them or slow the rate of investment. To grow, we need to continue to hire, train, supervise and manage new employees and to implement computer and other systems capable of effectively accommodating our growth. However, we cannot provide assurance that any such employees will contribute to the success of our business or that we will implement such systems effectively. Failure to manage our future growth effectively could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our business model depends to a significant extent upon strong referral relationships, and our inability to maintain or further develop these relationships, as well as the failure of these relationships to generate investment opportunities, could adversely affect our business.
We expect that members of our Senior Lending Team and our Executive Committee will maintain their relationships with intermediaries, financial institutions, investment bankers, commercial bankers, financial advisors, attorneys, accountants, consultants, alliance partners, and other individuals within their networks, and we will rely, to a significant extent, upon these relationships to provide us with potential investment opportunities. If our Senior Lending Team and our Executive Committee fail to maintain its existing relationships or develop new relationships with sources of investment opportunities, we may not be able to grow our investment portfolio. In addition, individuals with whom members of our Senior Lending Team and our Executive Committee have relationships are not obligated to provide us with investment opportunities, and, therefore, there is no assurance that such relationships will generate investment opportunities for us.
Any failure on our part to maintain our status as a BDC would reduce our operating flexibility.
We have elected to be regulated as a BDC under the 1940 Act. The 1940 Act imposes numerous constraints on the operations of BDCs. For example, BDCs are required to invest at least 70% of their gross assets in specified types of securities, primarily in private companies or thinly-traded U.S. public companies, cash, cash equivalents, U.S. government securities and other high quality debt investments that mature in one year or less. Furthermore, any failure to comply with the requirements imposed on BDCs by the 1940 Act could cause the SEC to bring an enforcement action against us and/or expose us to claims of private litigants. In addition, upon approval of a majority of our shareholders, we may elect to withdraw our status as a BDC. If we decide to withdraw our election, or if we otherwise fail to maintain our qualification, as a BDC, we may be subject to the substantially greater regulation under the 1940 Act as a closed-end investment company. Compliance with such regulations would significantly decrease our operating flexibility, and could significantly increase our costs of doing business.
Regulations governing our operation as a BDC affect our ability to raise additional capital and the way in which we do so. As a BDC, the necessity of raising additional capital may expose us to risks, including the typical risks associated with leverage.
We may issue debt securities or preferred stock and/or borrow money from banks or other financial institutions, which we refer to collectively as “senior securities,” up to the maximum amount permitted by the 1940 Act. Under the provisions of the 1940 Act, we are permitted, as a BDC, to issue senior securities in amounts such that our asset coverage ratio, as defined in the 1940 Act, equals at least 200% of gross assets less all liabilities and indebtedness not represented by senior securities, after each issuance of senior securities. If the value of our assets declines, we may be unable to satisfy this test. If that happens, we may be required to sell a portion of our investments and, depending on the nature of our leverage, repay a portion of our indebtedness at a time when such sales may be disadvantageous. Also, any amounts that we use to service our indebtedness would not be available for distributions to our common shareholders. Continuing to expand our debt financing activities in SBA 7(a) loans will require us to raise additional capital. The failure to continue to generate such loans on a consistent basis could have a material impact on our results of operations, and accordingly, our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.
We generally may not issue and sell our common stock at a price below net asset value per share. We may, however, sell our common stock, or warrants, options or rights to acquire our common stock, at a price below the then-current net asset value per share of our common stock if our Board determines that such sale is in our best interests and in the best interests of our shareholders, and our shareholders approve such sale. In any such case, the price at which our securities are to be issued and sold may not be less than a price that, in the determination of our Board, closely approximates the market value of such securities (less any distributing commission or discount). If we raise additional funds by issuing more common stock or senior securities convertible into, or exchangeable for, our common stock, then the percentage ownership of our shareholders at that time will decrease, and you may experience dilution.
Because we intend to distribute substantially all of our income to our shareholders to maintain our tax treatment as a RIC, we will continue to need additional capital to finance our growth, and regulations governing our operation as a BDC will affect our ability to, and the way in which we, raise additional capital and make distributions.
As a RIC, we generally are required to distribute substantially all of our ordinary income to meet the Annual Distribution Requirement and the Excise Tax Avoidance Requirement, which consequently increases the need to raise additional debt and equity capital. Furthermore, as a result of issuing senior securities, we would also be exposed to typical risks associated with leverage, including an increased risk of loss. If we issue preferred stock, the preferred stock would rank “senior” to common stock in our capital structure, preferred shareholders would have separate voting rights on certain matters and might have other rights, preferences, or privileges more favorable than those of our common shareholders, and the issuance of preferred stock could have the effect of delaying, deferring or preventing a transaction or a change of control that might involve a premium price for holders of our common stock or otherwise be in your best interest.
Because we borrow money, the potential for loss on amounts invested in us is magnified and may increase the risk of investing in us.
Borrowings, also known as leverage, magnify the potential for loss on investments in our indebtedness and on invested equity capital. As we use leverage to partially finance our investments, you will experience increased risks of investing in our securities. If the value of our assets increases, then leveraging would cause the net asset value attributable to our common stock to increase more sharply than it would have had we not leveraged. Conversely, if the value of our assets decreases, leveraging would cause net asset value to decline more sharply than it otherwise would have had we not leveraged our business. Similarly, any increase in our income in excess of interest payable on the borrowed funds would cause our net investment income to
increase more than it would without the leverage, while any decrease in our income would cause net investment income to decline more sharply than it would have had we not borrowed. Such a decline could negatively affect our ability to pay common stock dividends, scheduled debt payments or other payments related to our securities. Leverage is generally considered a speculative investment technique.
Illustration: The following table illustrates the effect of leverage on returns from an investment in our common stock assuming various annual returns, net of expenses. The calculations in the table below are hypothetical and actual returns may be higher or lower than those appearing in the table below:
Assumed Return on Our Portfolio (1)
(net of expenses)
Corresponding net return to shareholders (2)
(1) Assumes $401,450,000 in total assets, $176,019,000 in debt outstanding, $209,094,000 in net assets as of December 31, 2016, and an average cost of funds of 4.84%. Actual interest payments may be different.
(2) In order for us to cover our annual interest payments on indebtedness, we must achieve annuals returns on our December 31, 2016 total assets of at least 2.12%.
Our ability to achieve our investment objective may depend in part on our ability to access additional leverage on favorable terms, and there can be no assurance that such additional leverage can in fact be achieved.
To the extent we borrow money to finance our investments, changes in interest rates will affect our cost of capital and net investment income.
To the extent we borrow money to finance investments, our net investment income will depend, in part, upon the difference between the rate at which we borrow funds and the rate at which we invest those funds. As a result, we can offer no assurance that a significant change in market interest rates will not have a material adverse effect on our net investment income in the event we borrow money to finance our investments. In periods of rising interest rates, our cost of funds would increase, which could reduce our net investment income. We expect that our long-term fixed-rate investments will be financed primarily with equity and/or long-term debt. We may use interest rate risk management techniques in an effort to limit our exposure to interest rate fluctuations. Such techniques may include various interest rate hedging activities to the extent permitted by the 1940 Act. If we do not implement these techniques properly, we could experience losses on our hedging positions, which could be material. In addition, depending on the frequency and magnitude of rising interest rates, these interest rate increases could negatively impact premiums received on the sale of guaranteed SBA loans, and further, could increase prepayment speeds on outstanding SBA loans, potentially negatively impacting the Company’s financial results.
We may experience fluctuations in our quarterly and annual results.
We may experience fluctuations in our quarterly and annual operating results due to a number of factors, including our ability or inability to make investments in companies that meet our investment criteria, the interest rate payable on the debt securities we acquire, the default rate of such securities, the level of portfolio dividend and fee income, the level of our expenses, variations in and the timing of the recognition of realized and unrealized gains or losses, the degree to which we encounter competition in our markets and general economic conditions. As a result of these factors, results for any period should not be relied upon as being indicative of performance in future periods.
Our Board may change our investment objective, operating policies and strategies without prior notice or shareholder approval, the effects of which may be adverse.
Although we must obtain shareholder approval to cease to be, or withdraw our election as, a BDC, our Board has the authority to modify or waive our investment objective, current operating policies, investment criteria and strategies without prior notice and without shareholder approval. We cannot predict the effect any changes to our current operating policies, investment criteria and strategies would have on our business, net asset value, operating results and value of our stock. However, the effects might be adverse, which could negatively impact our ability to make distributions and cause shareholders to lose all or part of their investment.
We will be subject to corporate-level income tax if we are unable to maintain our qualification as a RIC or are unable to make the distributions required to maintain RIC tax treatment.
Although we have elected to be treated as a RIC commencing with our tax year ending December 31, 2015, no assurance can be given that we will be able to maintain our tax treatment as a RIC in the future. To maintain our tax treatment as a RIC, we must meet certain source-of-income, asset diversification, and distribution requirements.
The income source requirement will be satisfied if we obtain at least 90% of our income for each year from dividends, interest, gains from the sale of stock or securities or similar sources.
The asset diversification requirement will be satisfied if we meet certain asset diversification requirements at the end of each quarter of our taxable year. Failure to meet those requirements may result in our having to dispose of certain investments quickly in order to prevent the loss of our qualification as a RIC. Because most of our investments will be in private companies, and therefore will be relatively illiquid, any such dispositions could be made at disadvantageous prices and could result in substantial losses. The annual distribution requirement for a RIC will be satisfied if we distribute to our shareholders on an annual basis at least 90% of our net ordinary income and net short-term capital gains in excess of our net long-term capital losses, if any. Because we use debt financing, we are subject to certain asset coverage ratio requirements under the 1940 Act and financial covenants under loan and credit agreements that could, under certain circumstances, restrict us from making distributions necessary to satisfy the distribution requirement. If we are unable to obtain cash from other sources, we could fail to qualify as a RIC.
If we fail to qualify for RIC tax treatment for any reason and remain or become subject to corporate income tax, the resulting corporate taxes could substantially reduce our net assets, the amount of income available for distribution and the amount of our distributions. Although we have elected to be treated as a RIC commencing with our tax year ending December 31, 2015, no assurance can be given that we will be able to maintain our tax treatment as a RIC in the future.
We may not be able to pay distributions to our shareholders, our distributions may not grow over time and a portion of our distributions may be a return of capital.
We intend to pay distributions to our shareholders out of assets legally available for distribution. We cannot assure investors that we will achieve investment results that will allow us to make a specified level of cash distributions or year-to-year increases in cash distributions. Our ability to pay distributions might be adversely affected by, among other things, the impact of one or more of the risk factors described in this prospectus. In addition, the inability to satisfy the asset coverage test applicable to us as a BDC can limit our ability to pay distributions. All distributions will be paid at the discretion of our Board and will depend on our earnings, our financial condition, maintenance of our RIC status, compliance with applicable BDC regulations and such other factors as our Board may deem relevant from time to time. We cannot assure investors that we will pay distributions to our shareholders in the future.
When we make distributions, we will be required to determine the extent to which such distributions are paid out of current or accumulated earnings and profits. Distributions in excess of current and accumulated earnings and profits will be treated as a non-taxable return of capital to the extent of an investor’s basis in our stock and, assuming that an investor holds our stock as a capital asset, thereafter as a capital gain. Generally, a non-taxable return of capital will reduce an investor’s basis in our stock for federal tax purposes, which will result in higher tax liability when the stock is sold. Stockholders should read any written disclosure accompanying a distribution carefully and should not assume that the source of any distribution is our ordinary income or gains.
We may have difficulty paying our required distributions if we recognize income before or without receiving cash representing such income.
For U.S. federal income tax purposes, we are required to include in our taxable income certain amounts that we have not yet received in cash,such as original issue discount, which may arise if we receive warrants in connection with the origination of a loan or possibly in other circumstances, or PIK interest. Such original issue discount or increases in loan balances as a result of contractual PIK arrangements will be included in our taxable income before we receive any corresponding cash payments. We also may be required to include in our taxable income certain other amounts that we will not receive in cash. Since, in certain cases, we may recognize taxable income before or without receiving corresponding cash payments, we may have difficulty meeting the Annual Distribution Requirement necessary to maintain our tax treatment as a RIC. Accordingly, to satisfy our RIC distribution requirements, we may have to sell some of our investments at times and/or at prices we would not consider advantageous, raise additional debt or equity capital or forgo new investment opportunities. If we are not able to obtain cash from other sources, we may fail to qualify for tax treatment as a RIC and thus become subject to corporate-level income tax.
We may in the future choose to pay dividends in our own stock, in which case investors may be required to pay tax in excess of the cash they receive.
We may distribute taxable dividends that are payable in part in our stock. In accordance with certain applicable Treasury regulations and private letter rulings issued by the Internal Revenue Service, a RIC may treat a distribution of its own stock as fulfilling the RIC distribution requirements if each shareholder may elect to receive his or her entire distribution in either cash or stock of the RIC, subject to a limitation that the aggregate amount of cash to be distributed to all shareholders must be at least 20% of the aggregate declared distribution. If too many shareholders elect to receive cash, each shareholder electing to receive cash must receive a pro rata amount of cash (with the balance of the distribution paid in stock). In no event will any shareholder, electing to receive cash, receive less than 20% of his or her entire distribution in cash. If these and certain other requirements are met, for U.S. federal income tax purposes, the amount of the dividend paid in stock will be equal to the amount of cash that could have been received instead of stock. Taxable shareholders receiving such dividends will be required to include the amount of the dividends as ordinary income (or as long-term capital gain to the extent such distribution is properly reported as a capital gain dividend) to the extent of our current and accumulated earnings and profits for United States federal income tax purposes. As a result, a U.S. shareholder may be required to pay tax with respect to such dividends in excess of any cash received. If a U.S. shareholder sells the stock it receives as a dividend in order to pay this tax, the sales proceeds may be less than the amount included in income with respect to the dividend, depending on the market price of our stock at the time of the sale. Furthermore, with respect to non-U.S. shareholders, we may be required to withhold U.S. tax with respect to such dividends, including in respect of all or a portion of such dividend that is payable in stock. In addition, if a significant number of our shareholders determine to sell shares of our stock in order to pay taxes owed on dividends, it may put downward pressure on the trading price of our stock.
Internal control deficiencies could impact the accuracy of our financial results or prevent the detection of fraud. As a result, shareholders could lose confidence in our financial and other public reporting, which would harm our business and the trading price of our common stock.
Effective internal controls over financial reporting are necessary for us to provide reliable financial reports and, together with adequate disclosure controls and procedures, are designed to prevent fraud. A material weakness is a deficiency, or a combination of deficiencies, in internal control over financial reporting such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of the Company’s annual or interim financial statements will not be prevented or detected on a timely basis. Any failure by us to identify future deficiencies in our internal control over financial reporting in a timely manner or remediate any such deficiencies, could prevent us from accurately and timely reporting our financial results. Inferior internal controls could also cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial information, which could have a negative effect on the trading price of our common stock.
We are required to disclose changes made in our internal control and procedures on a quarterly basis and our management is required to assess the effectiveness of these controls annually. An independent assessment of the effectiveness of our internal controls could detect problems that our management’s assessment might not. Undetected material weaknesses in our internal controls could lead to financial statement restatements and require us to incur the expense of remediation. In the event that we are unable to maintain or achieve compliance with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and related rules, the market price of our common stock may be adversely affected.
Changes in laws or regulations governing our operations may adversely affect our business or cause us to alter our business strategy.
We and our portfolio companies will be subject to applicable local, state and federal laws and regulations, including, without limitation, federal immigration laws and regulations. New legislation may be enacted or new interpretations, rulings or regulations could be adopted, including those governing the types of investments we are permitted to make, any of which could harm us and our shareholders, potentially with retroactive effect. Additionally, any changes to the laws and regulations governing our operations relating to permitted investments may cause us to alter our investment strategy in order to avail ourselves of new or different opportunities. Such changes could result in material differences to the strategies and plans set forth herein and may result in our investment focus shifting from the areas of expertise of our Senior Lending Team and our Executive Committee to other types of investments in which our Senior Lending Team and our Executive Committee may have less expertise or little or no experience. Thus, any such changes, if they occur, could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and the value of your investment.
NSBF, our wholly-owned subsidiary, is subject to regulation by the SBA.
Our wholly-owned subsidiary, NSBF, is licensed by the SBA as an SBLC. In order to operate as an SBLC, a licensee is required to maintain a minimum regulatory capital (as defined by SBA regulations) of the greater of (1) 10% of its outstanding loans receivable and other investments or (2) $1.0 million. Moreover, before consenting to a securitization, NSBF and other securitizers must be considered well capitalized by the SBA. For NSBF and other SBLC securitizers, the SBA will consider it well capitalized if it maintains a minimum unencumbered paid in capital and paid in surplus equal to at least 10 percent of its assets, excluding the guaranteed portion of 7(a) loans. In addition, an SBLC is subject to certain other regulatory restrictions. Among other things, SBLCs are required to: establish, adopt, and maintain a formal written capital plan; submit to the SBA for review a credit policy that demonstrates the SBLC’s compliance with the applicable regulations and the SBA’s Standard Operating Procedures for origination, servicing and liquidation of 7(a) loans; submit to the SBA for review and approval annual validation, with supporting documentation and methodologies, demonstrating that any scoring model used by the SBLC is predictive of loan performance; obtain SBA approval for loan securitization and borrowings; and adopt and fully implement an internal control policy which provides adequate direction for effective control over and accountability for operations, programs, and resources.
We have specific risks associated with SBA loans.
We have generally sold the guaranteed portion of SBA loans in the secondary market. Such sales have resulted in our earning premiums and creating a stream of servicing income. There can be no assurance that we will be able to continue originating these loans, or that a secondary market will exist for, or that we will continue to realize premiums upon the sale of the guaranteed portions of the SBA 7(a) loans.
If NSBF fails to comply with SBA regulations in connection with the origination, servicing, or liquidation of an SBA 7(a) loan, liability on the SBA guaranty, in whole or part, could be transferred to NSBF.
Since we sell the guaranteed portion of substantially all of our SBA 7(a) loan portfolio, we retain credit risk on the non-guaranteed portion of the SBA loans. We share pro rata with the SBA in any recoveries. In the event of default on an SBA loan, our pursuit of remedies against a borrower is subject to SBA approval.
If we fail to comply with certain of the SBA’s regulations in connection with the origination, servicing, or liquidation of an SBA 7(a) loan, the SBA may be released from liability on its guaranty of a 7(a) loan, and may refuse to honor a guaranty purchase request in full (referred to by SBA as a “denial”) or in part (referred to by SBA as a “repair”), or recover all or part of the funds already paid in connection with a guaranty purchase. In the event of a repair or denial, liability on the guaranty, in whole or part, would be transferred to NSBF. In addition, the growth in the number of loans made by NSBF, changes in SBA regulations and economic factors may adversely impact our current repair and denial rate.
Curtailment of the government-guaranteed loan programs could adversely affect our results of operations.
Although the program has been in existence since 1953, there can be no assurance that the federal government will maintain the SBA 7(a) loan program, or that it will continue to guarantee loans at current levels. If we cannot continue originating and selling government-guaranteed loans, we will generate fewer origination fees and our ability to generate gains on the sale of loans will decrease. From time-to-time, the government agencies that guarantee these loans reach their internal budgeted limits and cease to guarantee loans for a stated time period. In addition, these agencies may change their rules for extending loans. Also, Congress may adopt legislation that would have the effect of discontinuing or changing the SBA’s programs. Non-governmental programs could replace government programs for some borrowers, but the terms might not be equally acceptable. If these changes occur, the volume of loans to SMBs and industrial borrowers of the types that now qualify for government-guaranteed loans could decline, as could the profitability of these loans.
Additionally, under current law, SBA 7(a) lenders must share equally with the SBA any SBA 7(a) loan premium in excess of 110% of the par value of such loans. Legislation pending in the U.S. Senate would, among other things, require SBA 7(a) lenders to share equally with the SBA any SBA 7(a) loan premium in excess of 108% of the par value of such loans, thereby decreasing the share of loan premium received by the SBA 7(a) lender. Such legislation also would impose a new fee of 3 basis points on the guaranteed portion of the SBA 7(a) loan. If passed in its present form, the legislation could serve to negatively impact the profitability of SBA 7(a) loans and our financial performance and results of operations.
Curtailment of our ability to utilize the SBA 7(a) Loan Program by the Federal government could adversely affect our results of operations.
We are dependent upon the federal government to maintain the SBA 7(a) Program. There can be no assurance that the program will be maintained or that loans will continue to be guaranteed at current levels. From time-to-time the SBA has reached its internal budgeted limits and ceased to guarantee loans for a stated period of time. In addition, the SBA may change its rules regarding loans or Congress may adopt legislation or fail to approve a budget that would have the effect of discontinuing, reducing availability of funds for, or changing loan programs. Non-governmental programs could replace government programs for some borrowers, but the terms might not be equally acceptable. If these changes occur, the volume of loans to small businesses that now qualify for government guaranteed loans could decline, as could the profitability of these loans.
NSBF’s failure to maintain PLP status or maintain its SBA 7(a) license could adversely affect our results of operation.
NSBF has been granted PLP status and originates, sells and services small business loans and is authorized to place SBA guarantees on loans without seeking prior SBA review and approval. Being a national lender, PLP status allows NSBF to expedite loans since NSBF is not required to present applications to the SBA for concurrent review and approval. The loss of PLP status could adversely impact our marketing efforts and ultimately loan origination volume which could negatively impact our results of operations.
There can be no assurance that NSBF will be able to maintain its status as a PLP or that NSBF can maintain its SBA 7(a) license. If NSBF cannot continue originating and selling government guaranteed loans at current levels, we could experience a decrease in future servicing spreads and earned premiums and negatively impact our results of operations.
Our loans under the Section 7(a) Loan Program involve a high risk of default and such default could adversely impact our results of operations.
Loans to small businesses involve a high risk of default. Such loans are generally not rated by any statistical rating organization. Small businesses usually have smaller product lines and market shares than larger companies and therefore may be more vulnerable to competition and general economic conditions. These businesses’ success typically depends on their management talents and efforts of one person or a small group of persons whose death, disability or resignation would adversely affect the business. Because these businesses frequently have highly leveraged capital structures, reduced cash flow resulting from economic downturns can severely impact the businesses’ ability to meet their obligations, which could impact our results of operations. The portions of Section 7(a) loans to be retained by the Company do not benefit directly from any SBA guarantees; in an event of default, however, the Company and the SBA typically cooperate in collateral foreclosure or other work-out efforts and share in any resulting collections.
The loans we make under the Section 7(a) Loan Program face competition.
There are several other non-bank lenders as well as a large number of banks that participate in the SBA Section 7(a) Loan Program. All of these participants compete for the business of eligible borrowers. In addition, pursuant to the 1940 Act, the Company is limited as to the amount of indebtedness it may have. Accordingly, the Company may be at a competitive disadvantage with regard to other lenders or financial institutions that may be able to achieve greater leverage at a lower cost.
Our business is subject to increasingly complex corporate governance, public disclosure and accounting requirements that are costly and could adversely affect our business and financial results.
We are subject to changing rules and regulations of federal and state government as well as the stock exchange on which our common stock is listed. These entities, including the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, the SEC and the Nasdaq Global Market, have issued a significant number of new and increasingly complex requirements and regulations over the course of the last several years and continue to develop additional regulations and requirements in response to laws enacted by Congress. Our efforts to comply with existing requirements, or any revised or amended requirements, have resulted in, and may continue to result in, an increase in expenses and a diversion of management’s time from other business activities.
In addition, our failure to keep pace with any such rules, or for our management to appropriately address compliance with such rules fully and in a timely manner, exposes us to an increasing risk of inadvertent non-compliance. While our management team takes reasonable efforts to ensure that the Company is in full compliance with all laws applicable to its operations, the increasing rate and extent of regulatory change increases the risk of a failure to comply, which may result in our ability to operate our business in the ordinary course or may subject us to potential fines, regulatory findings or other matters that may materially impact our business.
If we cannot obtain additional capital because of either regulatory or market price constraints, we could be forced to curtail or cease our new lending and investment activities, our net asset value could decrease and our level of distributions and liquidity could be affected adversely.
Our ability to secure additional financing and satisfy our financial obligations under indebtedness outstanding from time to time will depend upon our future operating performance, which is subject to the prevailing general economic and credit market conditions, including interest rate levels and the availability of credit generally, and financial, business and other factors, many of which are beyond our control. The prolonged continuation or worsening of current economic and capital market conditions could have a material adverse effect on our ability to secure financing on favorable terms, if at all.
If we are unable to obtain additional debt capital, then our equity investors will not benefit from the potential for increased returns on equity resulting from leverage to the extent that our investment strategy is successful and we may be limited in our ability to make new commitments or fundings to our portfolio companies.
Capital markets may experience periods of disruption and instability and we cannot predict when these conditions will occur. Such market conditions could materially and adversely affect debt and equity capital markets in the United States and abroad, which could have a negative impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
As a BDC, we must maintain our ability to raise additional capital for investment purposes. Without sufficient access to the capital markets or credit markets, we may be forced to curtail our business operations or we may not be able to pursue new business opportunities.
The U.S. and global capital markets experienced extreme volatility and disruption during the economic downturn that began in mid-2007, and the U.S. economy was in a recession for several consecutive calendar quarters during the same period. In 2010, a financial crisis emerged in Europe, triggered by high budget deficits and rising direct and contingent sovereign debt, which created concerns about the ability of certain nations to continue to service their sovereign debt obligations. Risks resulting from such debt crisis, including any austerity measures taken in exchange for the bail out of certain nations, and any future debt crisis in Europe or any similar crisis elsewhere could have a detrimental impact on the global economic recovery, sovereign and non-sovereign debt in certain countries and the financial condition of financial institutions generally. In June 2016, the United Kingdom held a referendum in which voters approved an exit from the European Union (“Brexit”), and, accordingly, on February 1, 2017, the U.K. Parliament voted in favor of allowing the U.K. government to begin the formal process of Brexit. Brexit created political and economic uncertainty and instability in the global markets (including currency and credit markets), and especially in the United Kingdom and the European Union, and this uncertainty and instability may last indefinitely. There is continued concern about national-level support for the Euro and the accompanying coordination of fiscal and wage policy among European Economic and Monetary Union member countries. In addition, the fiscal and monetary policies of foreign nations, such as Russia and China, may have a severe impact on the worldwide and U.S. financial markets.
Additionally, as a result of the 2016 U.S. election, the Republican Party currently controls both the executive and legislative branches of government, which increases the likelihood that legislation may be adopted that could significantly affect the regulation of U.S. financial markets. Areas subject to potential change, amendment, or repeal include the Dodd-Frank Act and the authority of the Federal Reserve and the Financial Stability Oversight Council. The U.S. may also potentially withdraw from or renegotiate various trade agreements and take other actions that would change current trade policies of the U.S. We cannot predict which, if any, of these actions will be taken or, if taken, their effect on the financial stability of the U.S. Such actions could have a significant adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. We cannot predict the effects of these or similar events in the future on the U.S. economy and securities markets or on our investments. We monitor developments and seek to manage our investments in a manner consistent with achieving our investment objective, but there can be no assurance that we will be successful in doing so.
A failure or the perceived risk of a failure to raise the statutory debt limit of the U.S. could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Recent U.S. debt ceiling and budget deficit concerns have increased the possibility of additional credit-rating downgrades and economic slowdowns, or a recession in the U.S. In the future, the U.S. government may not be able to meet its debt payments unless the federal debt ceiling is raised. The federal debt limit has been suspended since November 2, 2015, but the limit is set to be reinstated on March 15, 2017. If legislation increasing the debt ceiling is not enacted, as needed, and the debt ceiling is reached, the U.S. federal government may stop or delay making payments on its obligations, which could negatively impact the U.S. economy and our portfolio companies. In addition, disagreement over the federal budget has caused the U.S. federal
government to shut down for periods of time. Continued adverse political and economic conditions could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We are highly dependent on information systems and systems failures could significantly disrupt our business, which may, in turn, negatively affect the market price of our securities and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.
Our business is highly dependent on our communications and information systems. Certain of these systems are provided to us by third party service providers. Any failure or interruption of such systems, including as a result of the termination of an agreement with any such third party service provider, could cause delays or other problems in our activities. This, in turn, could have a material adverse effect on our operating results and negatively affect the market price of our securities and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.
Terrorist attacks, acts of war or natural disasters may affect any market for our securities, impact the businesses in which we invest and harm our business, operating results and financial condition.
Terrorist acts, acts of war or natural disasters may disrupt our operations, as well as the operations of the businesses in which we invest. Such acts have created, and continue to create, economic and political uncertainties and have contributed to global economic instability. Future terrorist activities, military or security operations, or natural disasters could further weaken the domestic/global economies and create additional uncertainties, which may negatively impact the businesses in which we invest directly or indirectly and, in turn, could have a material adverse impact on our business, operating results and financial condition. Losses from terrorist attacks and natural disasters are generally uninsurable.
We could be adversely affected by information security breaches or cyber security attacks.
Our business operations and our portfolio companies’ business operations rely upon secure information technology systems for data processing, storage and reporting. Despite careful security and controls design, implementation and updating, such information technology systems could become subject to cyber-attacks. Network, system, application and data breaches could result in operational disruptions or information misappropriation, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
In addition, our business operations and our portfolio companies’ business operations involve the storage and transmission of Newtek, portfolio company, customer and employee proprietary information. Our businesses rely on our digital technologies, computer and email systems, software, and networks to conduct operations. Our technologies, systems and networks may become the target of criminal cyber-attacks or information security breaches that could result in the unauthorized release, gathering, monitoring, misuse, loss or destruction of confidential, proprietary and other information of us, our portfolio companies, or third parties with whom we and our portfolio companies deal, or otherwise disrupt our or our customers’ or other third parties’ business operations. It is critical to our business strategy that our facilities and infrastructure remain secure and are perceived by the marketplace to be secure. Although we employ appropriate security technologies (including data encryption processes, intrusion detection systems), and conduct comprehensive risk assessments and other internal control procedures to assure the security of our and our customers’ data, we cannot guarantee that these measures will be sufficient for this purpose. If our security measures are breached as a result of third-party action, employee error or otherwise, and as a result our or our customers’ data becomes available to unauthorized parties, we could incur liability and our reputation would be damaged, which could lead to the loss of current and potential customers. If we experience any breaches of our network security or sabotage, we might be required to expend significant capital and other resources to detect, remedy, protect against or alleviate these and related problems, and we may not be able to remedy these problems in a timely manner, or at all. Because techniques used by outsiders to obtain unauthorized network access or to sabotage systems change frequently and generally are not recognized until launched against a target, we may be unable to anticipate these techniques or implement adequate preventative measures. As cyber threats continue to evolve, we may be required to expend significant additional resources to continue to modify or enhance our protective measures or to investigate and remediate any information security vulnerabilities. Although we have insurance in place that covers such incidents, the cost of a breach or cyber-attack could well exceed any such insurance coverage.
The failure in cyber-security systems, as well as the occurrence of events unanticipated in our disaster recovery systems and management continuity planning could impair our ability to conduct business effectively.
The occurrence of a disaster such as a cyber-attack, a natural catastrophe, an industrial accident, a terrorist attack or war, events unanticipated in our disaster recovery systems, or a support failure from external providers, could have an adverse effect on our ability to conduct business and on our results of operations and financial condition, particularly if those events affect our computer-based data processing, transmission, storage, and retrieval systems or destroy data. If a significant number of our
managers were unavailable in the event of a disaster, our ability to effectively conduct our business could be severely compromised.
We and our portfolio companies depend heavily upon computer systems to perform necessary business functions. Despite our portfolio companies implementation of a variety of security measures, our computer systems could be subject to cyber-attacks and unauthorized access, such as physical and electronic break-ins or unauthorized tampering. Like other companies, we and our portfolio companies may experience threats to our data and systems, including malware and computer virus attacks, unauthorized access, system failures and disruptions. If one or more of these events occurs, it could potentially jeopardize the confidential, proprietary and other information processed and stored in, and transmitted through, our and our portfolio company computer systems and networks, or otherwise cause interruptions or malfunctions in our operations, which could result in damage to our and our portfolio companies’ reputation, financial losses, litigation, increased costs, regulatory penalties and/or customer dissatisfaction or loss.
RISKS RELATING TO OUR INVESTMENTS GENERALLY
Our investments are very risky and highly speculative.
We invest primarily in senior secured term loans and select equity investments issued by companies, some of which are highly leveraged. The majority of senior secured loans are SBA 7(a) loans and the majority of equity investments are comprised of controlled affiliate equity investments.
Senior Secured Loans. There is a risk that the collateral securing our loans, in most cases real estate, may decrease in value over time, may be difficult to sell in a timely manner, may be difficult to appraise and may fluctuate in value based upon the success of the business and market conditions, including as a result of the inability of the portfolio company to raise additional capital, and, in some circumstances, our lien could be subordinated to claims of other creditors. In addition, deterioration in a portfolio company’s financial condition and prospects, including its inability to raise additional capital, may be accompanied by deterioration in the value of the collateral for the loan. Consequently, the fact that a loan is secured does not guarantee that we will receive principal and interest payments according to the loan’s terms, or at all, or that we will be able to collect on the loan should we be forced to enforce our remedies. In some cases we may take second lien position on additional business or personal assets to secure further our first lien positions.
Equity Investments. We occasionally invest directly in the equity securities of portfolio companies. The equity interests we receive may not appreciate in value and, in fact, may decline in value. Accordingly, we may not be able to realize gains from our equity interests, and any gains that we do realize on the disposition of any equity interests may not be sufficient to offset any other losses we experience.
In addition, investing in SMBs involves a number of significant risks, including:
these companies may have limited financial resources and may be unable to meet their obligations under their debt securities that we hold, which may be accompanied by a deterioration in the value of any collateral and a reduction in the likelihood of us realizing any guarantees we may have obtained in connection with our investment;
they typically have shorter operating histories, narrower product lines and smaller market shares than larger businesses, which tend to render them more vulnerable to competitors’ actions and market conditions, as well as general economic downturns;
they are more likely to depend on the management talents and efforts of a small group of persons; therefore, the death, disability, resignation or termination of one or more of these persons could have a material adverse impact on our portfolio company and, in turn, on us;
they generally have less predictable operating results, may from time to time be parties to litigation, may be engaged in rapidly changing businesses with products subject to a substantial risk of obsolescence, and may require substantial additional capital to support their operations, finance expansion or maintain their competitive position;
they may have difficulty accessing the capital markets to meet future capital needs, which may limit their ability to grow or to repay their outstanding indebtedness upon maturity; and
our executive officers and directors may, in the ordinary course of business, be named as defendants in litigation arising from our investments in the portfolio companies.
An investment strategy focused primarily on smaller privately held companies involves a high degree of risk and presents certain challenges, including the lack of available information about these companies, a dependence on the talents and efforts of only a few key portfolio company personnel and a greater vulnerability to economic downturns.
Our portfolio consists primarily of debt and equity investments in smaller privately-owned companies. Investing in these types of companies involves a number of significant risks. Typically, the debt in which we invest is not initially rated by any rating agency; however, we believe that if such investments were rated, they would be below investment grade. Below investment grade securities, which are often referred to as “high yield” or “junk,” have predominantly speculative characteristics with respect to the issuer’s capacity to pay interest and repay principal. Compared to larger publicly-owned companies, these small companies may be in a weaker financial position and experience wider variations in their operating results, which may make them more vulnerable to economic downturns. Typically, these companies need more capital to compete; however, their access to capital is limited and their cost of capital is often higher than that of their competitors. Our portfolio companies often face intense competition from larger companies with greater financial, technical and marketing resources and their success typically depends on the managerial talents and efforts of an individual or a small group of persons. Therefore, any loss of its key employees could affect a portfolio company’s ability to compete effectively and harm its financial condition. Further, some of these companies conduct business in regulated industries that are susceptible to regulatory changes. These factors could impair the cash flow of our portfolio companies and result in other events, such as bankruptcy. These events could limit a portfolio company’s ability to repay its obligations to us, which may have an adverse effect on the return on, or the recovery of, our investment in these businesses. Deterioration in a borrower’s financial condition and prospects may be accompanied by deterioration in the value of the loan’s collateral.
Generally, little public information exists about these companies, and we are required to rely on the ability of our Senior Lending Team and our Executive Committee to obtain adequate information to evaluate the potential returns from investing in these companies. If we are unable to uncover all material information about these companies, we may not make a fully informed investment decision, and we may lose money on our investments. Also, privately held companies frequently have less diverse product lines and smaller market presence than larger competitors. These factors could adversely affect our investment returns as compared to companies investing primarily in the securities of public companies.
Our investments in leveraged portfolio companies may be risky, and you could lose all or part of your investment.
Investment in leveraged companies involves a number of significant risks. Leveraged companies in which we invest may have limited financial resources and may be unable to meet their obligations under their loans and debt securities that we hold. Such developments may be accompanied by deterioration in the value of any collateral and a reduction in the likelihood of our realizing any guarantees that we may have obtained in connection with our investment. Smaller leveraged companies also may have less predictable operating results and may require substantial additional capital to support their operations, finance their expansion or maintain their competitive position.
Our portfolio companies may incur debt that ranks equally with, or senior to, our investments in such companies.
Our portfolio companies may have, or may be permitted to incur, other debt that ranks equally with, or in some cases senior to, the debt in which we invest. By their terms, such debt instruments may entitle the holders to receive payment of interest or principal on or before the dates on which we are entitled to receive payments with respect to the debt instruments in which we invest. Also, in the event of insolvency, liquidation, dissolution, reorganization or bankruptcy of a portfolio company, holders of debt instruments ranking senior to our investment in that portfolio company would typically be entitled to receive payment in full before we receive any distribution. After repaying such senior creditors, such portfolio company may not have sufficient remaining assets to repay its obligation to us. In the case of debt ranking equally with debt instruments in which we invest, we would have to share on an equal basis any distributions with other creditors holding such debt in the event of an insolvency, liquidation, dissolution, reorganization or bankruptcy of the relevant portfolio company.
Second priority liens on collateral securing loans that we make to our portfolio companies may be subject to control by senior creditors with first priority liens. If there is a default, the value of the collateral may not be sufficient to repay in full both the first priority creditors and us.
Certain loans that we make are secured by a second priority security interest in the same collateral pledged by a portfolio company to secure senior first lien debt owed by the portfolio company to commercial banks or other traditional lenders. Often the senior lender has procured covenants from the portfolio company prohibiting the incurrence of additional secured debt
without the senior lender’s consent. Prior to and as a condition of permitting the portfolio company to borrow money from us secured by the same collateral pledged to the senior lender, the senior lender will require assurances that it will control the disposition of any collateral in the event of bankruptcy or other default. In many such cases, the senior lender will require us to enter into an “intercreditor agreement” prior to permitting the portfolio company to borrow from us. Typically the intercreditor agreements we will be requested to expressly subordinate our debt instruments to those held by the senior lender and further provide that the senior lender shall control: (1) the commencement of foreclosure or other proceedings to liquidate and collect on the collateral; (2) the nature, timing and conduct of foreclosure or other collection proceedings; (3) the amendment of any collateral document; (4) the release of the security interests in respect of any collateral; and (5) the waiver of defaults under any security agreement. Because of the control we may cede to senior lenders under intercreditor agreements we may enter, we may be unable to realize the proceeds of any collateral securing some of our loans.
If we make subordinated investments, the obligors or the portfolio companies may not generate sufficient cash flow to service their debt obligations to us.
We may make subordinated investments that rank below other obligations of the obligor in right of payment. Subordinated investments are subject to greater risk of default than senior obligations as a result of adverse changes in the financial condition of the obligor or economic conditions in general. If we make a subordinated investment in a portfolio company, the portfolio company may be highly leveraged, and its relatively high debt-to-equity ratio may create increased risks that its operations might not generate sufficient cash flow to service all of its debt obligations.
The disposition of our investments may result in contingent liabilities.
We currently expect that substantially all of our investments will involve loans and private securities. In connection with the disposition of an investment in loans and private securities, we may be required to make representations about the business and financial affairs of the portfolio company typical of those made in connection with the sale of a business. We may also be required to indemnify the purchasers of such investment to the extent that any such representations turn out to be inaccurate or with respect to potential liabilities. These arrangements may result in contingent liabilities that ultimately result in funding obligations that we must satisfy through our return of distributions previously made to us.
There may be circumstances where our debt investments could be subordinated to claims of other creditors or we could be subject to lender liability claims.
Even though we may have structured certain of our investments as secured loans, if one of our portfolio companies were to go bankrupt, depending on the facts and circumstances, and based upon principles of equitable subordination as defined by existing case law, a bankruptcy court could subordinate all or a portion of our claim to that of other creditors and transfer any lien securing such subordinated claim to the bankruptcy estate. The principles of equitable subordination defined by case law have generally indicated that a claim may be subordinated only if its holder is guilty of misconduct or where the senior loan is re-characterized as an equity investment and the senior lender has actually provided significant managerial assistance to the bankrupt debtor. We may also be subject to lender liability claims for actions taken by us with respect to a borrower’s business or instances where we exercise control over the borrower. It is possible that we could become subject to a lender’s liability claim, including as a result of actions taken in rendering significant managerial assistance or actions to compel and collect payments from the borrower outside the ordinary course of business.
Economic recessions could impair our portfolio companies and harm our operating results.
Certain of our portfolio companies may be susceptible to an economic downturn and may be unable to repay our loans during this period. Therefore, assets may become non-performing and the value of our portfolio may decrease during this period. The adverse economic conditions also may decrease the value of collateral securing some of our loans and the value of our equity investments. A recession could lead to financial losses in our portfolio and a decrease in revenues, net income and the value of our assets.
The lack of liquidity in our investments may adversely affect our business.
We generally invest in companies whose securities are not publicly traded, and whose securities will be subject to legal and other restrictions on resale or will otherwise be less liquid than publicly traded securities. There is no established trading market for the securities in which we invest. The illiquidity of these investments may make it difficult for us to sell these investments when desired. In addition, if we are required to liquidate all or a portion of our portfolio quickly, we may realize significantly less than the value at which we had previously recorded these investments. As a result, we do not expect to achieve liquidity in
our investments in the near-term. Further, we may face other restrictions on our ability to liquidate an investment in a portfolio company to the extent that we have material non-public information regarding such portfolio company.
Our failure to make follow-on investments in our portfolio companies could impair the value of our portfolio.
Following an initial investment in a portfolio company, we may make additional investments in that portfolio company as “follow-on” investments, in order to: (1) increase or maintain in whole or in part our equity ownership percentage; (2) exercise warrants, options or convertible securities that were acquired in the original or a subsequent financing; or (3) attempt to preserve or enhance the value of our investment. We may elect not to make follow-on investments or otherwise lack sufficient funds to make those investments. We will have the discretion to make any follow-on investments, subject to the availability of capital resources. The failure to make follow-on investments may, in some circumstances, jeopardize the continued viability of a portfolio company and our initial investment, or may result in a missed opportunity for us to increase our participation in a successful operation. Even if we have sufficient capital to make a desired follow-on investment, we may elect not to make a follow-on investment because we do not want to increase our concentration of risk, we prefer other opportunities, we are subject to BDC requirements that would prevent such follow-on investments, or the follow-on investment would affect our qualification as a RIC.
Our portfolio may lack diversification among portfolio companies which may subject us to a risk of significant loss if one or more of these companies default on its obligations under any of its debt instruments.
Our portfolio holds a limited number of controlled affiliate portfolio companies. Beyond the asset diversification requirements associated with our qualification as a RIC under the Code, we do not have fixed guidelines for diversification, and our investments may be concentrated in relatively few companies. As our portfolio is less diversified than the portfolios of some larger funds, we are more susceptible to failure if a single loan fails. Similarly, the aggregate returns we realize may be significantly adversely affected if a small number of investments perform poorly or if we need to write down the value of any one investment.
We are a non-diversified investment company within the meaning of the 1940 Act, and therefore we may invest a significant portion of our assets in a relatively small number of issuers, which subjects us to a risk of significant loss if any of these
issuers defaults on its obligations under any of its debt instruments or as a result of a downturn in the particular industry.
We are classified as a non-diversified investment company within the meaning of the 1940 Act, and therefore we may invest a significant portion of our assets in a relatively small number of issuers in a limited number of industries. As of December 31, 2016, our three largest investments, Newtek Merchant Solutions, Newtek Technology Solutions and Newtek Payments Solutions equaled approximately 16%, 5% and 5%, respectively, of the fair value of our total assets. Beyond the asset diversification requirements associated with our qualification as a RIC, we do not have fixed guidelines for diversification, and while we are not targeting any specific industries, relatively few industries may become significantly represented among our investments. To the extent that we assume large positions in the securities of a small number of issuers, our net asset value may fluctuate to a greater extent than that of a diversified investment company as a result of changes in the financial condition or the market’s assessment of the issuer, changes in fair value over time or a downturn in any particular industry. We may also be more susceptible to any single economic or regulatory occurrence than a diversified investment company.
Our portfolio may be concentrated in a limited number of industries, which may subject us to a risk of significant loss if there is a downturn in a particular industry in which a number of our investments are concentrated.
Our portfolio may be concentrated in a limited number of industries. A downturn in any particular industry in which we are invested could significantly impact the aggregate returns we realize. If an industry in which we have significant investments suffers from adverse business or economic conditions, as these industries have to varying degrees, a material portion of our investment portfolio could be affected adversely, which, in turn, could adversely affect our financial position and results of operations.
Because we may not hold controlling equity interests in certain of our portfolio companies, we may not be in a position to exercise control over our portfolio companies or to prevent decisions by management of our portfolio companies that could decrease the value of our investments.
We do not currently hold controlling equity positions in the majority of our portfolio companies where our investments are in the form of debt, particularly SBA loans. As a result, we are subject to the risk that a portfolio company may make business decisions with which we disagree, and that the management and/or shareholders of a portfolio company may take risks or otherwise act in ways that are adverse to our interests. Due to the lack of liquidity of the debt and equity investments that we
typically hold in our portfolio companies, we may not be able to dispose of our investments in the event we disagree with the actions of a portfolio company and may therefore suffer a decrease in the value of our investments.
Defaults by our portfolio companies will harm our operating results.
A portfolio company’s failure to satisfy financial or operating covenants imposed by us or other lenders could lead to defaults and, potentially, termination of its loans and foreclosure on its secured assets, which could trigger cross-defaults under other agreements and jeopardize our portfolio company’s ability to meet its obligations under the debt securities that we hold. We may incur expenses to the extent necessary to seek recovery upon default or to negotiate new terms with a defaulting portfolio company. Any extension or restructuring of our loans could adversely affect our cash flows. In addition, if one of our portfolio companies were to go bankrupt, even though we may have structured our interest as senior debt, depending on the facts and circumstances, including the extent to which we actually provided managerial assistance to that portfolio company, a bankruptcy court might recharacterize our debt holding and subordinate all or a portion of our claim to that of other creditors. If any of these occur, it could materially and adversely affect our operating results and cash flows.
If we and our portfolio companies are unable to protect our intellectual property rights, our business and prospects could be harmed, and if we and our portfolio companies are required to devote significant resources to protecting their intellectual property rights, the value of our investment could be reduced.
The proprietary software essential to our business and that of our controlled portfolio companies is owned by us and made available to them for their use. Our future success and competitive position will depend in part upon our ability to maintain and protect proprietary technology used in our products and services. We will rely, in part, on patent, trade secret and trademark law to protect that technology, but competitors may misappropriate our intellectual property, and disputes as to ownership of intellectual property may arise. We may, from time to time, be required to institute litigation to enforce the patents, copyrights or other intellectual property rights, protect trade secrets, determine the validity and scope of the proprietary rights of others or defend against claims of infringement. Such litigation could result in substantial costs and diversion of resources.
Prepayments of our debt investments by our portfolio companies could adversely impact our results of operations and reduce our return on equity.
We will be subject to the risk that the investments we make in our portfolio companies may be repaid prior to maturity; most of our SBA loans do not carry prepayment penalties. When this occurs, we will generally reinvest these proceeds in temporary investments or repay outstanding debt, depending on future investment in new portfolio companies. Temporary investments will typically have substantially lower yields than the debt being prepaid and we could experience significant delays in reinvesting these amounts. Any future investment in a new portfolio company may also be at lower yields than the debt that was repaid. As a result, our results of operations could be materially adversely affected if one or more of our portfolio companies elect to prepay amounts owed to us. Additionally, prepayments could negatively impact our return on equity, which could result in a decline in the market price of our securities.
We may not realize gains from our equity investments.
Certain investments that we may make in the future include warrants or other equity securities. Investments in equity securities involve a number of significant risks, including the risk of further dilution as a result of additional issuances, inability to access additional capital and failure to pay current distributions. Investments in preferred securities involve special risks, such as the risk of deferred distributions, credit risk, illiquidity and limited voting rights. In addition, we may from time to time make non-control, equity investments in portfolio companies. Our goal is ultimately to realize gains upon our disposition of such equity interests. However, the equity interests we receive may not appreciate in value and, in fact, may decline in value. Accordingly, we may not be able to realize gains from our equity interests, and any gains that we do realize on the disposition of any equity interests may not be sufficient to offset any other losses we experience.
We also may be unable to realize any value if a portfolio company does not have a liquidity event, such as a sale of the business, recapitalization or public offering, which would allow us to sell the underlying equity interests. We will often seek puts or similar rights to give us the right to sell our equity securities back to the portfolio company issuer. We may be unable to exercise these puts rights for the consideration provided in our investment documents if the issuer is in financial distress.
We may expose ourselves to risks if we engage in hedging transactions.
If we engage in hedging transactions, we may expose ourselves to certain risks associated with such transactions. We may utilize instruments such as forward contracts, currency options and interest rate swaps, caps, collars and floors to seek to hedge
against fluctuations in the relative values of our portfolio positions from changes in currency exchange rates and market interest rates. Hedging against a decline in the values of our portfolio positions does not eliminate the possibility of fluctuations in the values of such positions or prevent losses if the values of such positions decline. However, such hedging can establish other positions designed to gain from those same developments, thereby offsetting the decline in the value of such portfolio positions. Such hedging transactions may also limit the opportunity for gain if the values of the underlying portfolio positions increase. It may not be possible to hedge against an exchange rate or interest rate fluctuation that is so generally anticipated that we are not able to enter into a hedging transaction at an acceptable price. Moreover, for a variety of reasons, we may not seek to establish a perfect correlation between such hedging instruments and the portfolio holdings being hedged. Any such imperfect correlation may prevent us from achieving the intended hedge and expose us to risk of loss. In addition, it may not be possible to hedge fully or perfectly against currency fluctuations affecting the value of securities denominated in non-U.S. currencies because the value of those securities is likely to fluctuate as a result of factors not related to currency fluctuations.
An increase in non-performing assets would reduce our income and increase our expenses.
If our level of non-performing assets in our SBA lending business rises in the future, it could adversely affect our investment income and earnings. Non-performing assets are primarily loans on which borrowers are not making their required payments. Non-performing assets also include loans that have been restructured to permit the borrower to have smaller payments and real estate that has been acquired through foreclosure of unpaid loans. To the extent that our financial assets are non-performing, we will have less cash available for lending and other activities.
If the assets securing the loans that we make decrease in value, then we may lack sufficient collateral to cover losses.
To attempt to mitigate credit risks, we will typically take a security interest in the available assets of our portfolio companies. There is no assurance that we will obtain or properly perfect our liens.
There is a risk that the collateral securing our loans may decrease in value over time, may be difficult to sell in a timely manner, may be difficult to appraise and may fluctuate in value based upon the success of the business and market conditions, including as a result of the inability of a portfolio company to raise additional capital. In some circumstances, our lien could be subordinated to claims of other creditors. Consequently, the fact that a loan is secured does not guarantee that we will receive principal and interest payments according to the loan’s terms, or that we will be able to collect on the loan should we be forced to enforce our remedies.
In addition, because we may invest in technology-related companies, a substantial portion of the assets securing our investment may be in the form of intellectual property, if any, inventory and equipment and, to a lesser extent, cash and accounts receivable. Intellectual property, if any, that is securing our loan could lose value if, among other things, the company’s rights to the intellectual property are challenged or if the company’s license to the intellectual property is revoked or expires, the technology fails to achieve its intended results or a new technology makes the intellectual property functionally obsolete. Inventory may not be adequate to secure our loan if our valuation of the inventory at the time that we made the loan was not accurate or if there is a reduction in the demand for the inventory.
Similarly, any equipment securing our loan may not provide us with the anticipated security if there are changes in technology or advances in new equipment that render the particular equipment obsolete or of limited value, or if the company fails to adequately maintain or repair the equipment. Any one or more of the preceding factors could materially impair our ability to recover principal in a foreclosure.
We could be adversely affected by weakness in the residential housing and commercial real estate markets.
Continued weakness in residential home and commercial real estate values could impair our ability to collect on defaulted SBA loans as real estate is pledged in many of our SBA loans as part of the collateral package.
RISKS RELATING TO OUR CONTROLLED PORTFOLIO COMPANIES - NEWTEK MERCHANT SOLUTIONS (NMS) AND NEWTEK PAYMENT SOLUTIONS (PREMIER PAYMENTS)
We could be adversely affected if either of NMS’ two bank sponsors is terminated.
Because NMS is not a bank, it is unable to belong to and directly access the Visa® and MasterCard® bankcard associations. The Visa® and MasterCard® operating regulations require NMS to be sponsored by a bank in order to process bankcard transactions. A bank sponsorship is an agreement under which a financial institution that has a membership with MasterCard®, Visa® or American Express sponsors an independent sales organization, like NMS, that markets credit card processing services to merchants who accept credit cards as a form of payment, gains access to the Visa®, MasterCard®, and American Express
networks. NMS is currently sponsored by two banks. If either of the sponsorships is terminated, and NMS is not able to secure or transfer the respective merchant portfolio to a new bank sponsor or sponsors, the business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows of the electronic payment processing business could be materially adversely affected. If both the sponsorships are terminated and NMS is unable to secure a bank sponsor for the merchant portfolios, it will not be able to process bankcard transactions for the affected portfolios. Consequently, the loss of both of NMS’ sponsorships would have a material adverse effect on our business. Furthermore, NMS’ agreements with sponsoring banks gives the sponsoring banks substantial discretion in approving certain elements of its business practices, including its solicitation, application and qualification procedures for merchants, the terms of their agreements with merchants, the processing fees that they charge, their customer service levels and its use of independent sales organizations and independent sales agents. We cannot guarantee that NMS’ sponsoring banks’ actions under these agreements would not be detrimental to us.
Other service providers, some of whom are NMS’ competitors, are necessary for the conduct of NMS’ business. The termination by service providers of these arrangements with NMS or their failure to perform these services efficiently and effectively may adversely affect NMS’ relationships with the merchants whose accounts it serves and may cause those merchants to terminate their processing agreements with NMS.
If NMS or its processors or bank sponsors fail to adhere to the standards of the Visa® and MasterCard® bankcard associations, its registrations with these associations could be terminated and it could be required to stop providing payment processing services for Visa® and MasterCard®.
Substantially all of the transactions NMS processes involve Visa® or MasterCard®. If NMS, its bank sponsors or its processors fail to comply with the applicable requirements of the Visa® and MasterCard® bankcard associations, Visa® or MasterCard® could suspend or terminate its registration. The termination of NMS’ registration or any changes in the Visa® or MasterCard® rules that would impair its registration could require it to stop providing payment processing services, which would have a material adverse effect on its business and could be detrimental to us.
On occasion, NMS experiences increases in interchange and sponsorship fees. If it cannot pass along these increases to its merchants, its profit margins will be reduced.
NMS pays interchange fees or assessments to bankcard associations for each transaction it processes using their credit, debit and gift cards. From time to time, the bankcard associations increase the interchange fees that they charge processors and the sponsoring banks, which generally pass on such increases to NMS. From time to time, the sponsoring banks increase their fees as well. If NMS is not able to pass these fee increases along to merchants through corresponding increases in its processing fees, its profit margins in this line of business will be reduced.
Unauthorized disclosure of merchant or cardholder data, whether through breach of our computer systems or otherwise, could expose us to liability and business losses.
Through NMS, we collect and store sensitive data about merchants and cardholders, and we maintain a database of cardholder data relating to specific transactions, including payment, card numbers and cardholder addresses, in order to process the transactions and for fraud prevention and other internal processes. If anyone penetrates our network security or otherwise misappropriates sensitive merchant or cardholder data, we could be subject to liability or business interruption. While we subject these systems to periodic independent testing and review, we cannot guarantee that our systems will not be penetrated in the future. If a breach of our system occurs, we may be subject to liability, including claims for unauthorized purchases with misappropriated card information, impersonation or other similar fraud claims. Similar risks exist with regard to the storage and transmission of such data by our processors. In the event of any such a breach, we may also be subject to a class action lawsuit. SMBs are less prepared for the complexities of safeguarding cardholder data than their larger counterparts. In the event of noncompliance by a customer of card industry rules, we could face fines from payment card networks. There can be no assurance that we would be able to recover any such fines from such customer.
NMS is liable if its processing merchants refuse or cannot reimburse charge-backs resolved in favor of their customers.
If a billing dispute between a merchant and a cardholder is not ultimately resolved in favor of the merchant, the disputed transaction is “charged back” to the merchant’s bank and credited to the account of the cardholder. If NMS or its processing banks are unable to collect the charge-back from the merchant’s account, or if the merchant refuses or is financially unable due to bankruptcy or other reasons to reimburse the merchant’s bank for the charge-back, NMS must bear the loss for the amount of the refund paid to the cardholder’s bank. Most of NMS’ merchants deliver products or services when purchased, so a contingent liability for charge-backs is unlikely to arise, and credits are issued on returned items. However, some of its merchants do not provide services until sometime after a purchase, which increases the potential for contingent liability and future charge backs.
NMS and the sponsoring bank can require that merchants maintain cash reserves under its control to cover charge back liabilities but such reserves may not be sufficient to cover the liability or may not even be available to them in the event of a bankruptcy or other legal action.
NMS has potential liability for customer or merchant fraud.
Credit card fraud occurs when a merchant’s customer uses a stolen card (or a stolen card number in a card-not-present transaction) to purchase merchandise or services. In a traditional card-present transaction, if the merchant swipes the card, receives authorization for the transaction from the card issuing bank and verifies the signature on the back of the card against the paper receipt signed by the customer, the card issuing bank remains liable for any loss. In a fraudulent card-not-present transaction, even if the merchant receives authorization for the transaction, the merchant is liable for any loss arising from the transaction. Many NMS customers are small and transact a substantial percentage of their sales over the Internet or by telephone or mail orders. Because their sales are card-not-present transactions, these merchants are more vulnerable to customer fraud than larger merchants, and NMS could experience charge-backs arising from cardholder fraud more frequently with these merchants.
Merchant fraud occurs when a merchant, rather than a customer, knowingly uses a stolen or counterfeit card or card number to record a false sales transaction or intentionally fails to deliver the merchandise or services sold in an otherwise valid transaction. Anytime a merchant is unable to satisfy a charge-back, NMS is ultimately responsible for that charge-back unless it has required that a cash reserve be established. We cannot assure that the systems and procedures NMS has established to detect and reduce the impact of merchant fraud are or will be effective. Failure to effectively manage risk and prevent fraud could increase NMS charge-back liability and adversely affect its results of operations.
NMS payment processing systems may fail due to factors beyond its control, which could interrupt its business or cause it to lose business and likely increase costs.
NMS depends on the uninterrupted operations of our computer network systems, software and our processors’ data centers. Defects in these systems or damage to them due to factors beyond its control could cause severe disruption to NMS’ business and other material adverse effects on its payment processing businesses.
The electronic payment processing business is undergoing very rapid technological changes which may make it difficult or impossible for NMS or Premier Payments to compete effectively.
The introduction of new technologies, primarily mobile payment capabilities, and the entry into the payment processing market of new competitors, Apple, Inc., for example, could dramatically change the competitive environment and require significant changes and costs for NMS to remain competitive. There is no assurance that NMS or Premier will have the capability to stay competitive with such changes.
NMS and others in the payment processing industry have come under increasing pressures from various regulatory agencies seeking to use the leverage of the payment processing business to limit or modify the practices of merchants which could lead to increased costs.
Various agencies, particularly the Federal Trade Commission, have within the past few years attempted to pressure merchants to discontinue or modify various sales or other practices. As a part of the payment processing industry, processors such as NMS could experience pressure and/or litigation aimed at restricting access to credit card sales by such merchants. These efforts could cause an increase in the cost to NMS of doing business or otherwise make its business less profitable and may subject NMS to assess penalties for not taking actions deemed sufficiently aggressive to limit such practices.
Increased regulatory focus on the payments industry may result in costly new compliance burdens on NMS’ clients and on NMS itself, leading to increased costs and decreased payments volume and revenues.
Regulation of the payments industry has increased significantly in recent years. Complying with these and other regulations increases costs and can reduce revenue opportunities. Similarly, the impact of such regulations on clients may reduce the volume of payments processed. Moreover, such regulations can limit the types of products and services that are offered. Any of these occurrences can materially and adversely affect NMS’ business, prospects for future growth, financial condition and results of operations.
Data Protection and Information Security. Aspects of NMS’ operations and business are subject to privacy and data protection regulation. NMS’ financial institution clients are subject to similar requirements under the guidelines issued by the federal banking agencies. In addition, many individual states have enacted legislation requiring consumer notification in the event of a security breach.
Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing. The U.S.A. PATRIOT Act requires NMS to maintain an anti-money laundering program. Sanctions imposed by the U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, restrict NMS from dealing with certain parties considered to be connected with money laundering, terrorism or narcotics. NMS has controls in place designed to ensure OFAC compliance, but if those controls should fail, it could be subject to penalties, reputational damage and loss of business.
Money Transfer Regulations. As NMS expands its product offerings, it may become subject to money transfer regulations, increasing regulatory oversight and costs of compliance.
Formal Investigation. If NMS is suspected of violating government statutes, such as the Federal Trade Commission Act or the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act, governmental agencies may formally investigate NMS. As a result of such a formal investigation, criminal or civil charges could be filed against NMS and it could be required to pay significant fines or penalties in connection with such investigation or other governmental investigations. Any criminal or civil charges by a governmental agency, including any fines or penalties, could materially harm NMS’ business, results of operations, financial position and cash flows. Currently, NMS is operating under an order for injunctive relief it voluntarily entered into with the Federal Trade Commission.
RISKS RELATING TO OUR CONTROLLED PORTFOLIO COMPANIES - NEWTEK TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS (NTS)
NTS operates in a highly competitive industry in which technological change can be rapid.
The information technology business and its related technology involve a broad range of rapidly changing technologies. NTS equipment and the technologies on which it is based may not remain competitive over time, and others may develop superior technologies that render its products non-competitive, without significant additional capital expenditures. Some of NTS’ competitors are significantly larger and have substantially greater market presence as well as greater financial, technical, operational, marketing and other resources and experience than NTS. In the event that such a competitor expends significant sales and marketing resources in one or several markets, NTS may not be able to compete successfully in such markets. We believe that competition will continue to increase, placing downward pressure on prices. Such pressure could adversely affect NTS gross margins if it is not able to reduce its costs commensurate with such price reductions. There can be no assurances that NTS will remain competitive.
NTS’ technology solutions business depends on the efficient and uninterrupted operation of its computer and communications hardware systems and infrastructure.
Despite precautions taken by NTS against possible failure of its systems, interruptions could result from natural disasters, power loss, the inability to acquire fuel for its backup generators, telecommunications failure, terrorist attacks and similar events. NTS also leases telecommunications lines from local, regional and national carriers whose service may be interrupted. NTS’ business, financial condition and results of operations could be harmed by any damage or failure that interrupts or delays its operations. There can be no assurance that NTS’ insurance will cover all of the losses or compensate NTS for the possible loss of clients occurring during any period that NTS is unable to provide service.
NTS’ inability to maintain the integrity of its infrastructure and the privacy of confidential information would materially affect its business.
The NTS infrastructure is potentially vulnerable to physical or electronic break-ins, viruses or similar problems. If its security measures are circumvented, it could jeopardize the security of confidential information stored on NTS’ systems, misappropriate proprietary information or cause interruptions in NTS’ operations. We may be required to make significant additional investments and efforts to protect against or remedy security breaches. Security breaches that result in access to confidential information could damage our reputation and expose us to a risk of loss or liability. The security services that NTS offers in connection with customers’ networks cannot assure complete protection from computer viruses, break-ins and other disruptive problems. The occurrence of these problems may result in claims against NTS or us or liability on our part. These claims,
regardless of their ultimate outcome, could result in costly litigation and could harm our business and reputation and impair NTS’ ability to attract and retain customers.
NTS could be adversely affected by information security breaches or cyber security attacks.
NTS’ web and cloud services involve the storage and transmission of our customers’, employees’, and portfolio companies’ proprietary information. NTS’ business relies on its digital technologies, computer and email systems, software, and networks to conduct its operations. NTS’ technologies, systems and networks may become the target of criminal cyber-attacks or information security breaches that could result in the unauthorized release, gathering, monitoring, misuse, loss or destruction of confidential, proprietary and other information of NTS or third parties with whom NTS deals, or otherwise disrupt our or our customers’ or other third parties’ business operations. It is critical to NTS’ business strategy that its facilities and infrastructure remain secure and are perceived by the marketplace to be secure. Although NTS employs appropriate security technologies (including data encryption processes, intrusion detection systems), and conduct comprehensive risk assessments and other internal control procedures to assure the security of our customers’ data, we cannot guarantee that these measures will be sufficient for this purpose. If NTS’ security measures are breached as a result of third-party action, employee error or otherwise, and as a result its customers’ data becomes available to unauthorized parties, NTS and our other portfolio companies could incur liability and its reputation would be damaged, which could lead to the loss of current and potential customers. If NTS experiences any breaches of its network security or sabotage, NTS might be required to expend significant capital and other resources to detect, remedy, protect against or alleviate these and related problems, and it may not be able to remedy these problems in a timely manner, or at all. Because techniques used by outsiders to obtain unauthorized network access or to sabotage systems change frequently and generally are not recognized until launched against a target, NTS may be unable to anticipate these techniques or implement adequate preventative measures. As cyber threats continue to evolve, NTS may be required to expend significant additional resources to continue to modify or enhance our protective measures or to investigate and remediate any information security vulnerabilities. Although NTS has insurance in place that covers such incidents, the cost of a breach or cyber-attack could well exceed any such insurance coverage.
NTS’ business depends on Microsoft Corporation and others for the licenses to use software as well as other intellectual property in the managed technology solutions business.
NTS’ managed technology business is built on technological platforms relying on the Microsoft Windows® products and other intellectual property that NTS currently licenses. As a result, if NTS is unable to continue to have the benefit of those licensing arrangements or if the products upon which its platform is built become obsolete, its business could be materially and adversely affected.
RISKS RELATING TO OUR CONTROLLED PORTFOLIO COMPANIES - NEWTEK INSURANCE AGENCY (NIA)
NIA depends on third parties, particularly property and casualty insurance companies, to supply the products marketed by its agents.
NIA contracts with property and casualty insurance companies typically provide that the contracts can be terminated by the supplier without cause. NIA’s inability to enter into satisfactory arrangements with these suppliers or the loss of these relationships for any reason would adversely affect the results of its insurance business. Also, NIA’s inability to obtain these products at competitive prices could make it difficult for it to compete with larger and better capitalized providers of such insurance services.
If NIA fails to comply with government regulations, its insurance agency business would be adversely affected.
NIA insurance agency business is subject to comprehensive regulation in the various states in which it conducts business. NIA’s success will depend in part upon its ability to satisfy these regulations and to obtain and maintain all required licenses and permits. NIA’s failure to comply with any statutes and regulations could have a material adverse effect on it. Furthermore, the adoption of additional statutes and regulations, changes in the interpretation and enforcement of current statutes and regulations could have a material adverse effect on it.
NIA does not have any control over the commissions it earns on the sale of insurance products which are based on premiums and commission rates set by insurers and the conditions prevalent in the insurance market.
NIA earns commissions on the sale of insurance products. Commission rates and premiums can change based on the prevailing economic and competitive factors that affect insurance underwriters. In addition, the insurance industry has been characterized by periods of intense price competition due to excessive underwriting capacity and periods of favorable premium levels due to shortages of capacity. We cannot predict the timing or extent of future changes in commission rates or premiums or the effect any of these changes will have on the operations of NIA.
RISKS RELATING TO OUR CONTROLLED PORTFOLIO COMPANIES - NEWTEK PAYROLL AND BENEFIT SOLUTIONS (NPS)
Unauthorized disclosure of employee data, whether through a cyber-security breach of our computer systems or otherwise, could expose NPS to liability and business losses.
NPS collects and stores sensitive data about individuals in order to process the transactions and for other internal processes. If anyone penetrates its network security or otherwise misappropriates sensitive individual data, NPS could be subject to liability or business interruption. NPS is subject to laws and rules issued by different agencies concerning safeguarding and maintaining the confidentiality of this information. Its activities have been, and will continue to be, subject to an increasing risk of cyber-attacks, the nature of which is continually evolving. Cyber-security risks include unauthorized access to privileged and sensitive customer information, including passwords and account information of NPS’ customers. While it subjects its data systems to periodic independent testing and review, NPS cannot guarantee that its systems will not be penetrated in the future. Experienced computer programmers and hackers may be able to penetrate NPS’ network security, and misappropriate or compromise our confidential information, create system disruptions, or cause shutdowns. As a result, NPS’ customers’ information may be lost, disclosed, accessed or taken without its customers’ consent. If a breach of NPS’ system occurs, it may be subject to liability, including claims for impersonation or other similar fraud claims. In the event of any such breach, NPS may also be subject to a class action lawsuit. Any significant violations of data privacy could result in the loss of business, litigation and regulatory investigations and penalties that could damage NPS’ reputation, and the growth of its business could be adversely affected.
NPS is subject to risks surrounding Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) payments.
Credit risk in ACH payments arises when a party to a contract fails to deposit funds required to settle the contract. This can occur if a client of NPS suffers losses, enters into bankruptcy or defrauds NPS. In such an event, NPS could bear the financial burden of settling the customer’s contract.
NPS’ systems may be subject to disruptions that could adversely affect its business and reputation.
NPS’ payroll business relies heavily on its payroll, financial, accounting and other data processing systems. If any of these systems or any of the vendors which supply them fails to operate properly or becomes disabled even for a brief period of time, NPS could suffer financial loss, a disruption of its business, liability to clients, regulatory intervention or damage to its reputation. NPS has disaster recovery plans in place to protect its businesses against natural disasters, security breaches, military or terrorist actions, power or communication failures or similar events. Despite NPS’ preparations, its disaster recovery plans may not be successful in preventing the loss of client data, service interruptions, and disruptions to its operations or damage to its important facilities.
If NPS fails to adapt its technology to meet client needs and preferences, the demand for its services may diminish.
NPS operates in industries that are subject to rapid technological advances and changing client needs and preferences. In order to remain competitive and responsive to client demands, NPS continually upgrades, enhances and expands its existing solutions and services. If NPS fails to respond successfully to technological challenges, the demand for its services may diminish.
NPS could incur unreimbursed costs or damages due to delays in processing inherent in the banking system.
NPS generally determines the availability of customer (employer) funds prior to making payments to employees or taxing authorities, and such employer funds are generally transferred in to its accounts prior to making payments out. Due to the structure of the banking system however, there are times when NPS may make payroll or tax payments and not immediately receive the funds to do so from the employer. There can be no assurance that the procedures NPS has in place to prevent these occurrences or mitigate the damages will be sufficient to prevent loss to its business. In addition, NPS could incur unreimbursed costs or damages due to delays in processing customer payrolls or payroll taxes in a timely manner.
RISKS RELATING TO OUR CONTROLLED PORTFOLIO COMPANIES - NEWTEK BUSINESS CREDIT SOLUTIONS (NBC)
An unexpected level of defaults in NBC’s accounts receivables, inventory or SBA 504 loan portfolios would reduce its income and increase its expenses.
If NBC’s level of non-performing assets in its receivable financing, inventory financing or SBA 504 lending business rises in the future, it could adversely affect its revenue, earnings and cash flow. Non-performing assets primarily consist of receivables for which the customer has not made timely payment. In certain situations, NBC may restructure the receivable to permit such a customer to have smaller payments over a longer period of time. Such a restructuring or non-payment by a receivables or inventory customer will result in lower revenue and less cash available for NBC’s operational activities.
NBC’s reserve for credit losses may not be sufficient to cover unexpected losses.
NBC’s business depends on the behavior of its customers. In addition to its credit practices and procedures, NBC maintains a reserve for credit losses on its accounts receivable and inventory portfolios, which it has judged to be adequate given the receivables it purchases. NBC periodically reviews its reserve for adequacy considering current economic conditions and trends, charge-off experience and levels of non-performing assets, and adjusts its reserve accordingly. However, because of recent unstable economic conditions, its reserves may prove inadequate, which could have a material adverse effect on its financial condition and results of operations.
NBC depends on outside financing to support its receivables financing and inventory business.
NBC’s receivables and inventory financing business depends on outside financing to support its acquisition of receivables. Termination of the credit lines for any reason would have a material adverse effect on its business, including but not limited to, the liquidation of its receivables portfolios to pay down the lines. If funds from such sale were insufficient to completely pay down the line of credit, NBC would be responsible for any short fall.
We are a guarantor on a bank line of credit held at NBC to fund receivables and inventory financing, with maximum borrowings under the line of credit of $15,000,000 as of January 30, 2017. At December 31, 2016, total principal owed by NBC was $9,847,000. NBC also entered into an additional line of credit to fund SBA 504 loans extended by NBC (the “504 Facility”). The maximum amount of the 504 Facility is up to $35,000,000, depending upon syndication. At December 31, 2016, total principal owed by NBC was $2,311,000. The 504 Facility specifies certain events of default, pursuant to which all outstanding amounts under the 504 Facility could become immediately due and payable. We have guaranteed NBC’s obligations under the 504 Facility. If NBC defaults on these lines of credit, we would be required to make payments under the guarantees, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
In addition, if NBC loses either of these lines of credit and NBC is unable to renew or replace these lines of credit, it would materially impact the business of NBC and have a material adverse effect on its financial condition and results of operations.
LEGAL PROCEEDINGS - PORTFOLIO COMPANIES
Our portfolio companies may, from time to time, be involved in various legal matters, including the currently pending case — Federal Trade Commission v. WV Universal Management, LLC et al., which may have an adverse effect on their operations and/or financial condition.
During the quarter ended June 30, 2013, the Federal Trade Commission (the “FTC”) amended an existing complaint in the matter Federal Trade Commission v. WV Universal Management, LLC et al., in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida (the “Court”), to add UPSW as an additional defendant on one count of providing substantial assistance in violation of the Telemarketing Sales Rule. On November 18, 2014, the Court issued an Order granting the FTC’s motion for summary judgment against UPSW on the single count. Subsequently, the FTC filed motions for a permanent injunction and equitable monetary relief against UPSW and the other remaining defendants. Prior to the Court hearing on the motions, UPSW and the FTC reached a settlement on the FTC’s motion for a permanent injunction. On May 19, 2015, the Court entered an equitable monetary judgment against UPSW for approximately $1,735,000, which has been deposited with the Court pending the outcome of UPSW’s appeal of the judgment. The $1,735,000 was fully expensed in 2014 by UPSW.
On June 14, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit vacated the Court’s order awarding joint and several liability for equitable monetary relief in the amount of approximately $1,735,000 against UPSW, and remanded the case to the Court for findings of fact and conclusions of law as to whether and why UPSW should be jointly and severally liable for
restitution, and in what amount, if any. On October 18, 2016, the Court ordered that the $1,735,000 payment be returned to UPSW. On October 26, 2016, the Court entered an equitable monetary judgment against UPSW for approximately $1,735,000. UPSW in in the process of appealing the judgment.
UPSW instituted an action against a former independent sales agent in Wisconsin state court for, among other things, breach of contract. The former sales agent answered the complaint and filed counterclaims against UPSW. The court recently granted certain aspects of defendants’ motions for summary judgment, dismissing certain of the claims asserted by UPSW. The case has been stayed pending the outcome of UPSW’s appeal of certain matters to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. UPSW intends to vigorously pursue its claims against the former sales agent and defend the counterclaims asserted.
RISKS RELATING TO OUR CAPCO BUSINESS
The Capco programs and the tax credits they provide are created by state legislation and implemented through regulation, and such laws and rules are subject to possible action to repeal or retroactively revise the programs for political, economic or other reasons. Such an attempted repeal or revision would create substantial difficulty for the Capco programs and could, if ultimately successful, cause us material financial harm.
The tax credits associated with the Capco programs and provided to our Capcos’ investors are to be utilized by the investors over a period of time, which is typically ten years. Much can change during such a period and it is possible that one or more states may revise or eliminate the tax credits. Any such revision or repeal could have a material adverse economic impact on our Capcos, either directly or as a result of the Capco’s insurer’s actions. Any such final state action that jeopardizes the tax credits could result in the provider of our Capco insurance assuming partial or full control of the particular Capco in order to minimize its liability under the Capco insurance policies issued to our investors.
Because our Capcos are subject to requirements under state law, a failure of any of them to meet these requirements could subject the Capco and our shareholders to the loss of one or more Capcos.
Despite the fact that we have met all applicable minimum requirements of the Capco programs in which we still participate, each Capco remains subject to state regulation until it has invested 100% of its funds and otherwise remains in full legal compliance. There can be no assurance that we will continue to be able to do so. A major regulatory violation, while not fatal to our Capco business, would materially increase the cost of operating the Capcos.
We know of no other publicly-held company that sponsors and operates Capcos as a part of its business. As such, there are, to our knowledge, no other companies against which investors may compare our Capco business and its operations, results of operations and financial and accounting structures.
In the absence of any meaningful peer group comparisons for our Capco business, investors may have a difficult time understanding and judging the strength of our business. This, in turn, may have a depressing effect on the value of our stock.
RISKS RELATING TO OUR SECURITIES
As of December 31, 2016, our CEO beneficially owns approximately 7% of our common stock, and may be able to exercise significant influence over the outcome of most shareholder actions.
Because of his ownership of our stock, Barry Sloane, our Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President, may be able to exercise significant influence over actions requiring shareholder approval, including the election of directors, the adoption of amendments to the certificate of incorporation, approval of stock incentive plans and approval of major transactions such as a merger or sale of assets. This could delay or prevent a change in control of the Company, deprive our shareholders of an opportunity to receive a premium for their common stock as part of a change in control and have a negative effect on the market price of our common stock.
Our common stock price may be volatile and may decrease substantially.
The trading price of our common stock may fluctuate substantially. The price of our common stock may be higher or lower depending on many factors, some of which are beyond our control and may not be directly related to our operating performance. These factors include, but are not limited to, the following:
price and volume fluctuations in the overall stock market from time to time;
investor demand for our stock;
significant volatility in the market price and trading volume of securities of BDCs or other companies in our sector, which are not necessarily related to the operating performance of these companies;
changes in regulatory policies or tax guidelines with respect to RICs, BDCs, or SBLCs;
failure to qualify as a RIC, or the loss of RIC status;
any shortfall in revenue or net income or any increase in losses from levels expected by investors or securities analysts;
changes, or perceived changes, in the value of our portfolio investments;
departures of key Company personnel;
operating performance of companies comparable to us; or
general economic conditions and trends and other external factors.
In the past, following periods of volatility in the market price of a company’s securities, securities class action litigation has often been brought against that company. Due to the potential volatility of our stock price once a market for our stock is established, we may become the target of securities litigation in the future. Securities litigation could result in substantial costs and divert management’s attention and resources from our business.
Future issuances of our common stock or other securities, including preferred shares, may dilute the per share book value of our common stock or have other adverse consequences to our common shareholders.
Our Board has the authority, without the action or vote of our shareholders, to issue all or part of the approximately 185,376,056 authorized but unissued shares of our common stock. Our business strategy relies upon investments in and acquisitions of businesses using the resources available to us, including our common stock. Additionally, we anticipate granting additional options or restricted stock awards to our employees and directors in the future. Absent exemptive relief, a BDC generally may not issue restricted stock to its directors, officers and employees. In May 2016, the SEC issued an order granting the Company’s request for exemptive relief to allow us to amend our equity compensation plan and make such grants and awards, subject to shareholder approval. We may also issue additional securities, through public or private offerings, in order to raise capital. Future issuances of our common stock will dilute the percentage of ownership interest of current shareholders and could decrease the per share book value of our common stock. In addition, option holders may exercise their options at a time when we would otherwise be able to obtain additional equity capital on more favorable terms. In July 2016, our shareholders approved the amendments to our equity compensation plan, and certain restricted stock awards granted thereunder.
We may also issue additional securities, through public or private offerings, in order to raise capital. Future issuances of our common stock will dilute the percentage of ownership interest of current shareholders and could decrease the per share book value of our common stock. In addition, option holders may exercise their options at a time when we would otherwise be able to obtain additional equity capital on more favorable terms.
Pursuant to our amended and restated charter, our Board is authorized to classify any unissued shares of stock and reclassify any previously classified but unissued shares of stock of any class or series from time to time, into one or more classes or series of stock, including preferred stock. If we issue preferred stock, the preferred stock would rank “senior” to common stock in our capital structure, preferred shareholders would have separate voting rights on certain matters and might have other rights, preferences, or privileges more favorable than those of our common shareholders, and the issuance of preferred stock could have the effect of delaying, deferring or preventing a transaction or a change of control that might involve a premium price for holders of our common stock or otherwise be in your best interest. We will not generally be able to issue and sell our common stock at a price below net asset value per share. We may, however, sell our common stock, or warrants, options or rights to acquire our common stock, at a price below the then current net asset value per share of our common stock if our Board determines that such sale is in our best interests and in the best interests of our shareholders, and our shareholders approve such sale. In any such case, the price at which our securities are to be issued and sold may not be less than a price that, in the determination of our Board, closely approximates the market value of such securities (less any distributing commission or
discount). If we raise additional funds by issuing more common stock or senior securities convertible into, or exchangeable for, our common stock, then the percentage ownership of our shareholders at that time will decrease, and you may experience dilution.
Our shareholders may experience dilution upon the repurchase of common shares.
The Company has instituted programs which allow the Company to repurchase the Company’s outstanding common shares on the open market. Under the programs, purchases may be made at management’s discretion from time to time in open-market transactions, in accordance with all applicable securities laws and regulations. On May 11, 2016, the Company announced that its Board approved a new share repurchase program under which the Company was able to repurchase up to 150,000 of the Company’s outstanding common shares on the open market. This program terminated on November 11, 2016. On November 21, 2016 the Company announced that its Board approved a new share repurchase program under which the Company may repurchase up to 200,000 of the Company’s outstanding common shares on the open market. Unless extended or terminated by the Board, the Company expects the termination date for this new repurchase program will be on May 21, 2017. If we were to repurchase shares at a price above net asset value, such repurchases would result in an immediate dilution to existing common shareholders due to a reduction in our earnings and assets due to the repurchase that is greater than the reduction in total shares outstanding. During the year ended December 31, 2016, the Company repurchased and retired 70,000 common shares in open market transactions for approximately $866,000.
The authorization and issuance of “blank check” preferred shares could have an anti-takeover effect detrimental to the interests of our shareholders.
Our certificate of incorporation allows our Board to issue preferred shares with rights and preferences set by the Board without further shareholder approval. The issuance of these “blank check” preferred shares could have an anti-takeover effect detrimental to the interests of our shareholders. For example, in the event of a hostile takeover attempt, it may be possible for management and the Board to impede the attempt by issuing the preferred shares, thereby diluting or impairing the voting power of the other outstanding common shares and increasing the potential costs to acquire control of us. Our Board has the right to issue any new shares, including preferred shares, without first offering them to the holders of common shares, as they have no preemptive rights.
Our business and operation could be negatively affected if we become subject to any securities litigation or shareholder activism, which could cause us to incur significant expense, hinder execution of investment strategy and impact our stock price.
In the past, following periods of volatility in the market price of a company’s securities, securities class action litigation has often been brought against that company. Stockholder activism, which could take many forms or arise in a variety of situations, has been increasing in the BDC space recently. While we are currently not subject to any securities litigation or shareholder activism, due to the potential volatility of our stock price and for a variety of other reasons, we may in the future become the target of securities litigation or shareholder activism. Securities litigation and shareholder activism, including potential proxy contests, could result in substantial costs and divert management’s and our board of directors’ attention and resources from our business. Additionally, such securities litigation and shareholder activism could give rise to perceived uncertainties as to our future, adversely affect our relationships with service providers and make it more difficult to attract and retain qualified personnel. Also, we may be required to incur significant legal fees and other expenses related to any securities litigation and activist shareholder matters. Further, our stock price could be subject to significant fluctuation or otherwise be adversely affected by the events, risks and uncertainties of any securities litigation and shareholder activism.
Provisions of the Maryland General Corporation Law and of our charter and bylaws could deter takeover attempts and have an adverse impact on the price of our common stock.
The Maryland General Corporation Law and our charter and bylaws contain provisions that may discourage, delay or make more difficult a change in control of Newtek or the removal of our directors. We are subject to the Maryland Business Combination Act, subject to any applicable requirements of the 1940 Act. Our Board has adopted a resolution exempting from the Business Combination Act any business combination between us and any other person, subject to prior approval of such business combination by our Board, including approval by a majority of our independent directors. If the resolution exempting business combinations is repealed or our Board does not approve a business combination, the Business Combination Act may discourage third parties from trying to acquire control of us and increase the difficulty of consummating such an offer. Our bylaws exempt from the Maryland Control Share Acquisition Act acquisitions of our stock by any person.
The SEC staff has taken the position that, under the 1940 Act, an investment company may not avail itself of the Control Share Act. As a result, we will amend our bylaws to be subject to the Control Share Act only if the board of directors determines that
it would be in our best interests and, after notification, the SEC staff does not object to our determination that our being subject to the Control Share Act does not conflict with the 1940 Act. If such conditions are met, and we amend our bylaws to repeal the exemption from the Control Share Acquisition Act, the Control Share Acquisition Act also may make it more difficult for a third party to obtain control of us and increase the difficulty of consummating such a transaction.
We have also adopted measures that may make it difficult for a third party to obtain control of us, including provisions of our charter classifying our Board in three classes serving staggered three-year terms and authorizing our Board to classify or reclassify shares of our stock in one or more classes or series, to cause the issuance of additional shares of our stock, to amend our charter without shareholder approval and to increase or decrease the number of shares of stock that we have authority to issue. These provisions, as well as other provisions of our charter and bylaws, may delay, defer or prevent a transaction or a change in control that might otherwise be in the best interests of our shareholders.
Sales of substantial amounts of our common stock in the public market may have an adverse effect on the market price of our common stock.
All of the common stock held by our executive officers and directors, represents approximately 1,195,571 shares, or approximately 8% of our total outstanding shares as of December 31, 2016. Such shares are generally freely tradable in the public market. Sales of substantial amounts of our common stock, or the availability of such common stock for sale, could adversely affect the prevailing market prices for our common stock. If this occurs and continues, it could impair our ability to raise additional capital through the sale of securities should we desire to do so.
If we issue preferred stock, the net asset value and market value of our common stock will likely become more volatile.
We cannot assure you that the issuance of preferred stock would result in a higher yield or return to the holders of our common stock. The issuance of preferred stock would likely cause the net asset value and market value of the common stock to become more volatile. If the dividend rate on the preferred stock were to approach the net rate of return on our investment portfolio, the benefit of leverage to the holders of the common stock would be reduced. If the dividend rate on the preferred stock were to exceed the net rate of return on our portfolio, the leverage would result in a lower rate of return to the holders of common stock than if we had not issued preferred stock. Any decline in the net asset value of our investments would be borne entirely by the holders of common stock. Therefore, if the market value of our portfolio were to decline, the leverage would result in a greater decrease in net asset value to the holders of common stock than if we were not leveraged through the issuance of preferred stock. This greater net asset value decrease would also tend to cause a greater decline in the market price for the common stock. We might be in danger of failing to maintain the required asset coverage of the preferred stock or of losing our ratings, if any, on the preferred stock or, in an extreme case, our current investment income might not be sufficient to meet the dividend requirements on the preferred stock. To counteract such an event, we might need to liquidate investments to fund a redemption of some or all of the preferred stock. In addition, we would pay (and the holders of common stock would bear) all costs and expenses relating to the issuance and ongoing maintenance of the preferred stock, including higher advisory fees if our total return exceeds the dividend rate on the preferred stock. Holders of preferred stock may have different interests than holders of common stock and may at times have disproportionate influence over our affairs.
Stockholders may incur dilution if we sell shares of our common stock in one or more offerings at prices below the then current net asset value per share of our common stock or issue securities to subscribe to, convert to or purchase shares of our common stock.
The 1940 Act prohibits us from selling shares of our common stock at a price below the current net asset value per share of such stock, with certain exceptions. One such exception is prior shareholder approval of issuances below net asset value provided that our Board makes certain determinations. On July 27, 2016, at our Special Meeting of Shareholders, our shareholders approved a proposal that authorizes us to sell up to 20% of our common stock at a price below the Company’s then-current net asset value per share, subject to certain conditions. Any decision to sell shares of our common stock below the then current net asset value per share of our common stock or securities to subscribe to, convert to, or purchase shares of our common stock would be subject to the determination by our Board that such issuance is in our and our shareholders’ best interests.
If we were to sell shares of our common stock below net asset value per share, such sales would result in an immediate dilution to the net asset value per share. This dilution would occur as a result of the sale of shares at a price below the then current net asset value per share of our common stock and a proportionately greater decrease in a shareholder’s interest in our earnings and assets and voting interest in us than the increase in our assets resulting from such issuance. In addition, if we issue securities to subscribe to, convert to or purchase shares of common stock, the exercise or conversion of such securities would increase the number of outstanding shares of our common stock. Any such exercise would be dilutive on the voting power of existing shareholders, and could be dilutive with regard to dividends and our net asset value, and other economic aspects of the common stock. Because the number of shares of common stock that could be so issued and the timing of any issuance is not currently known, the actual dilutive effect cannot be predicted; however, the example below illustrates the effect of dilution to existing shareholders resulting from the sale of common stock at prices below the net asset value of such shares.
RISKS RELATING TO OUR PUBLICLY-TRADED DEBT
The 7.50% Notes due 2022 (the “2022 Notes”) and the 7.00% Notes due 2021 (the “2021 Notes,” and together with the 2022 Notes, the “Notes”) are unsecured and therefore are effectively subordinated to any secured indebtedness we have outstanding or may incur in the future.
In September 2015 and April 2016, we issued $8,324,000 and $40,250,000 in aggregate principal amount of the 2022 Notes and 2021 Notes, respectively. The Notes are not secured by any of our assets or any of the assets of our subsidiaries. As a result, the Notes are effectively subordinated to any secured indebtedness we or our subsidiaries have outstanding or may incur in the future (or any indebtedness that is initially unsecured to which we subsequently grant security). In any liquidation, dissolution, bankruptcy or other similar proceeding, the holders of any of our existing or future secured indebtedness and the existing or future secured indebtedness of our subsidiaries may assert rights against the assets pledged to secure that indebtedness to receive full payment of their indebtedness before the assets may be used to pay other creditors, including the holders of the Notes.
The Notes are structurally subordinated to the indebtedness and other liabilities of our subsidiaries.
The Notes are obligations exclusively of the Company and not of any of our subsidiaries. None of our subsidiaries is a guarantor of the Notes and the Notes are not required to be guaranteed by any subsidiaries we may acquire or create in the future. Any assets of our subsidiaries will not be directly available to satisfy the claims of our creditors, including holders of the Notes.
Except to the extent we are a creditor with recognized claims against our subsidiaries, all claims of creditors (including trade creditors) and holders of preferred stock, if any, of our subsidiaries will have priority over our equity interests in such subsidiaries (and therefore the claims of our creditors, including holders of the Notes) with respect to the assets of such subsidiaries. Even if we are recognized as a creditor of one or more of our subsidiaries, our claims would still be effectively subordinated to any security interests in the assets of any such subsidiary and to any indebtedness or other liabilities of any such subsidiary senior to our claims. Consequently, the Notes are structurally subordinated to all indebtedness and other liabilities (including trade payables) of any of our subsidiaries and any subsidiaries that we may in the future acquire or establish as financing vehicles or otherwise.
The indenture under which the Notes were issued contains limited protection for holders of the Notes.
The indentures under which the Notes were issued offers limited protection to holders of the Notes. The terms of the indentures and the Notes do not restrict our or any of our subsidiaries’ ability to engage in, or otherwise be a party to, a variety of corporate transactions, circumstances or events that could have a material adverse impact on your investment in the Notes. In particular, the terms of the indentures and the Notes do not place any restrictions on our or our subsidiaries’ ability to:
issue securities or otherwise incur additional indebtedness or other obligations, including (1) any indebtedness or other obligations that would be equal in right of payment to the Notes, (2) any indebtedness or other obligations that would be secured and therefore rank effectively senior in right of payment to the Notes, (3) indebtedness of ours that is guaranteed by one or more of our subsidiaries and which therefore is structurally senior to the Notes and (4) securities, indebtedness or obligations issued or incurred by our subsidiaries that would be senior to our equity interests in our subsidiaries and therefore rank structurally senior to the Notes with respect to the assets of our subsidiaries, in each case other than an incurrence of indebtedness or other obligation that would cause a violation of Section 18(a)(1)(A) as modified by Section 61(a)(1) of the 1940 Act or any successor provisions, whether or not we continue to be subject to such provisions of the 1940 Act, but giving effect, in either case, to any exemptive relief granted to us by the SEC. Currently, these provisions generally prohibit us from making additional borrowings, including through the issuance of
additional debt or the sale of additional debt securities, unless our asset coverage, as defined in the 1940 Act, equals at least 200% after such borrowings;
with respect to the 2021 Notes, pay dividends on, or purchase or redeem or make any payments in respect of, capital stock or other securities ranking junior in right of payment to the 2021 Notes, including subordinated indebtedness, in each case other than dividends, purchases, redemptions or payments that would cause a violation of Section 18(a)(1)(B) as modified by Section 61(a)(1) of the 1940 Act as in effect immediately prior to the issuance of the 2021 Notes, we will not declare any dividend (except a dividend payable in stock of the issuer), or declare any other distribution, upon a class of the capital stock of the Company, or purchase any such capital stock, unless, in every such case, at the time of the declaration of any such dividend or distribution, or at the time of any such purchase, the Company has an asset coverage (as defined in the 1940 Act) of at least 200% after deducting the amount of such dividend, distribution or purchase price, as the case may be, and giving effect, in each case, (i) to any exemptive relief granted to the Company by the SEC and (ii) to any no-action relief granted by the SEC to another business development company (or to the Company if it determines to seek such similar no-action or other relief) permitting the business development company to declare any cash dividend or distribution notwithstanding the prohibition contained in Section 18(a)(1)(B) as modified by Section 61(a)(1) of the 1940 Act in order to maintain such business development company’s status as a regulated investment company under Subchapter M of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended;
with respect to the 2022 Notes, pay dividends on, or purchase or redeem or make any payments in respect of, capital stock or other securities ranking junior in right of payment to the Notes, including subordinated indebtedness, in each case other than dividends, purchases, redemptions or payments that would cause a violation of Section 18(a)(1)(B) as modified by Section 61(a)(1) of the 1940 Act or any successor provisions, giving effect to (i) any exemptive relief granted to us by the SEC and (ii) no-action relief granted by the SEC to another BDC (or to the Company if it determines to seek such similar no-action or other relief) permitting the BDC to declare any cash dividend or distribution notwithstanding the prohibition contained in Section 18(a)(1)(B) as modified by Section 61(a)(1) of the 1940 Act in order to maintain the BDC’s status as a RIC under Subchapter M of the Code (these provisions generally prohibit us from declaring any cash dividend or distribution upon any class of our capital stock, or purchasing any such capital stock if our asset coverage, as defined in the 1940 Act, is below 200% at the time of the declaration of the dividend or distribution or the purchase and after deducting the amount of such dividend, distribution or purchase);
sell assets (other than certain limited restrictions on our ability to consolidate, merge or sell all or substantially all of our assets);
enter into transactions with affiliates;
create liens (including liens on the shares of our subsidiaries) or enter into sale and leaseback transactions;
create restrictions on the payment of dividends or other amounts to us from our subsidiaries.
In addition, the indentures does not require us to offer to purchase the Notes in connection with a change of control, asset sale or any other event.
Furthermore, the terms of the indentures and the Notes do not protect holders of the Notes in the event that we experience changes (including significant adverse changes) in our financial condition, results of operations or credit ratings, as they do not require that we or our subsidiaries adhere to any financial tests or ratios or specified levels of net worth, revenues, income, cash flow or liquidity.
Our ability to recapitalize, incur additional debt and take a number of other actions that are not limited by the terms of the Notes may have important consequences for you as a holder of the Notes, including making it more difficult for us to satisfy our obligations with respect to the Notes or negatively affecting the trading value of the Notes.
Other debt we issue or incur in the future could contain more protections for its holders than the indentures and the Notes, including additional covenants and events of default. The issuance or incurrence of any such debt with incremental protections could affect the market for and trading levels and prices of the Notes.
If we default on our obligations to pay other indebtedness that we may incur in the future, we may not be able to make payments on the Notes.
In the future, we may enter into agreements to incur additional indebtedness, including a secured credit facility. A default under such agreements to which we may be a party that is not waived by the required lenders or holders, and the remedies sought by the holders of such indebtedness could make us unable to pay principal, premium, if any, and interest on the Notes and substantially decrease the market value of the Notes. If we are unable to generate sufficient cash flow and are otherwise unable to obtain funds necessary to meet required payments of principal, premium, if any, and interest on such future additional indebtedness, or if we otherwise fail to comply with the various covenants, including financial and operating covenants, in the instruments governing such future additional indebtedness, we could be in default under the terms of the agreements governing such indebtedness. In the event of such default, the holders of such indebtedness could elect to declare all the funds borrowed thereunder to be due and payable, together with accrued and unpaid interest, the lenders of other debt we may incur in the future could elect to terminate their commitments, cease making further loans and institute foreclosure proceedings against our assets, and we could be forced into bankruptcy or liquidation. If we are unable to repay debt, lenders having secured obligations could proceed against the collateral securing the debt. Because any future credit facilities likely will have customary cross-default provisions, if the indebtedness under any future credit facility is accelerated, we may be unable to repay or finance the amounts due.
We may choose to redeem the Notes when prevailing interest rates are relatively low.
On or after April 22, 2017 and September 23, 2018, we may choose to redeem the 2021 Notes and the 2022 Notes, respectively, from time to time, especially when prevailing interest rates are lower than the interest rate on the 2021 Notes or 2022 Notes. If prevailing rates are lower at the time of redemption, you may not be able to reinvest the redemption proceeds in a comparable security at an effective interest rate as high as the interest rate on the Notes being redeemed. Our redemption right also may adversely impact your ability to sell the Notes as the optional redemption date or period approaches.
In addition, on November 21, 2016, the Company announced that its Board approved a repurchase program under which the Company may repurchase up to 10%, or $832,400 in aggregate principal amount, of its 7.50% Notes due 2022 and up to 10%, or $4,025,000 in aggregate principal amount, of its 7.00% Notes due 2021 through open market purchases, including block purchases, in such manner as will comply with the provisions of the 1940 Act and the Exchange Act. Unless extended or terminated by the Board, the Company expects the termination date for the repurchase plan will be on May 21, 2017.
The trading market or market value of our publicly traded debt securities may fluctuate
The 2022 Notes and the 2021 Notes are new issues of debt securities listed on the Nasdaq Global Market under the symbols “NEWTZ” and “NEWTL,” respectively. Although the Notes are listed on Nasdaq, we cannot assure you that a trading market for our publicly issued debt securities will be maintained. In addition to our creditworthiness, many factors may materially adversely affect the trading market for, and market value of, our publicly issued debt securities. These factors include, but are not limited to, the following:
the time remaining to the maturity of these debt instruments;
the outstanding principal amount of debt securities with terms identical to these debt securities;
the ratings assigned by the national statistical rating agencies;
the general economic environment;
the supply of debt securities trading in the secondary market, if any;
the level, direction and volatility of market interest rates generally; and
market rates of interest higher or lower than rates borne by the debt securities.
You should be aware that there may be a limited number of buyers when you decide to sell your securities. This too may materially adversely affect the market value of the debt securities of the trading market for the debt securities.
Pending legislation may allow us to incur additional leverage.
As a BDC, under the 1940 Act we generally are not permitted to incur indebtedness unless immediately after such borrowing we have an asset coverage for total borrowings of at least 200% (i.e., the amount of debt may not exceed 50% of the value of our assets). Pending legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, if passed, would modify this section of the 1940 Act and
increase the amount of debt that BDCs may incur by modifying the asset coverage percentage from 200% to 150%. As a result, we may be able to incur additional indebtedness in the future and therefore your risk of an investment in us may increase.
ITEM 1B. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS.
ITEM 2. PROPERTIES.
We conduct our principal business activities in facilities leased from unrelated parties at market rates. Our headquarters are located in Lake Success, New York. Our operating subsidiaries have properties which are material to the conduct of their business as noted below. In addition, our Capcos maintain offices in each of the states in which they operate.
Below is a list of our leased offices and space as of December 31, 2016 which are material to the conduct of our business:
Approximate square feet
1981 Marcus Avenue
Lake Success, NY 11042
Newtek Business Services, NSBF, accounting, sales and human resources, NY Capco offices and portfolio companies offices
4 Park Plaza
Irvine, CA 92614
NSBF office - lending operations
5901 Broken Sound Parkway NW
Boca Raton, FL 33487
NSBF lending operations
We believe that our leased facilities are adequate to meet our current needs and that additional facilities are available to meet our development and expansion needs in existing and projected target markets.
ITEM 3. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS.
In the ordinary course of business, the Company and its wholly owned portfolio companies may from time to time be party to lawsuits and claims. The Company evaluates such matters on a case by case basis and its policy is to contest vigorously any claims it believes are without compelling merit. The Company is not currently involved in any litigation matters. For legal proceedings involving controlled portfolio companies, refer to “Risk Factors - Legal Proceedings - Portfolio Companies.”
ITEM 4. MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES.
ITEM 5. MARKET FOR THE REGISTRANT’S COMMON EQUITY AND RELATED SHAREHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES.
Price Range of Common Stock
Our common stock is traded on the Nasdaq Global Market under the symbol “NEWT.” High and low prices for the common stock over the previous two years are set forth below, based on the highest and lowest intraday sales price per share during that period.
The last reported price for our common stock on March 9, 2017 was $16.85 per share. As of March 9, 2017 there were approximately 118 shareholders of record.
Shares of BDCs may trade at a market price that is less than the value of the net assets attributable to those shares. The possibility that our shares of common stock will trade at a discount from net asset value or at premiums that are unsustainable over the long term are separate and distinct from the risk that our net asset value will decrease.
Sales of Unregistered Securities
During the year ended December 31, 2015, in connection with the investment in Premier Payments LLC, we issued 130,959 restricted common shares of the Company to Jeffrey Rubin, a related party, in a private transaction as a portion of the consideration.
We did not engage in any sales of unregistered securities during the years ended December 31, 2016 or 2014.
In order to be subject to tax as a RIC, we must distribute to our shareholders, in respect of each taxable year, dividends for U.S. federal income tax purposes of an amount generally at least equal to the Annual Distribution Requirement. Upon satisfying this requirement in respect of a taxable year, we generally will not be subject to corporate taxes on any income we distribute to our shareholders as dividends for U.S. federal income tax purposes.
However, as a RIC we will be subject to a 4% nondeductible U.S. federal excise tax on certain undistributed income and gains unless we make distributions treated as dividends for U.S. federal income tax purposes in a timely manner to our shareholders in respect of each calendar year of an amount at least equal to the Excise Tax Avoidance Requirement. We will not be subject to this excise tax on any amount on which we incurred U.S. federal corporate income tax (such as the tax imposed on a RIC’s retained net capital gains).
Depending on the level of taxable income earned in a taxable year, we may choose to carry over taxable income in excess of current taxable year distributions treated as dividends for U.S. federal income tax purposes from such taxable income into the next taxable year and incur a 4% excise tax on such taxable income, as required. The maximum amount of excess taxable income that may be carried over for distribution in the next taxable year under the Code is the total amount of distributions treated as dividends for U.S. federal income tax purposes paid in the following taxable year, subject to certain declaration and payment guidelines. To the extent we choose to carry over taxable income into the next taxable year, distributions declared and paid by us in a taxable year may differ from our taxable income for that taxable year as such distributions may include the distribution of current taxable year taxable income, the distribution of prior taxable year taxable income carried over into and distributed in the current taxable year, or returns of capital.
We can offer no assurance that we will achieve results that will permit the payment of any cash distributions and, if we issue senior securities, we will be prohibited from making distributions if doing so causes us to fail to maintain the asset coverage ratios stipulated by the 1940 Act or if distributions are limited by the terms of any of our borrowings. Our ability to make distributions will be limited by the asset coverage requirements under the 1940 Act. See “Item 1. Business— Regulation.”
The following table summarizes the Company's dividend declarations and distributions during the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2015. There were no dividend declarations or distributions for the periods November 12, 2014 through December 31, 2014 or January 1, 2014 through November 11, 2014.
March 30, 2015
April 13, 2015
June 29, 2015
July 15, 2015
October 22, 2015
November 3, 2015
November 18, 2015 (1)
December 31, 2015
January 7, 2016
January 19, 2016
March 22, 2016
March 31, 2016
June 20, 2016
June 30, 2016
September 20, 2016
September 30, 2016
December 15, 2016
December 30, 2016
(1) The Special dividend was declared as a result of the Company’s RIC election for tax year 2015 and represents the distribution of 100% of the Company's accumulated earnings and profits through December 31, 2014. Pursuant to applicable Treasury Regulation and IRS guidance, the dividend was payable up to 27% in cash and at least 73% in newly issued shares of our common stock.
Our Board maintains a variable distribution policy with the objective of distributing four quarterly distributions in an amount that approximates 90 - 100% of our taxable quarterly income or potential annual income for a particular taxable year. In addition, at the end of our taxable year, our Board may choose to pay an additional special distribution, or fifth distribution, so that we may distribute approximately all of our annual taxable income in the taxable year in which it was earned, or may elect to maintain the option to spill over our excess taxable income into the following taxable year as part of any future distribution payments.
Distributions in excess of our current and accumulated earnings and profits would generally be treated first as a return of capital to the extent of a shareholder’s tax basis in our shares, and any distributions paid in excess of a shareholder’s tax basis in our shares would generally be treated as a capital gain. The determination of the tax attributes of our distributions is made annually as of the end of our taxable year and is generally based upon our taxable income for the full taxable year and distributions paid for the full taxable year. Of the distributions declared during the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2015, 100% were distributions derived from our current and accumulated earnings and profits. There can be no certainty to shareholders that this determination is representative of the tax attributes of the 2017 distributions that we anticipate would be made to shareholders.
We maintain an “opt-out” dividend reinvestment plan for our common shareholders. As a result, if we declare a distribution, cash distributions will be automatically reinvested in additional shares of our common stock unless the shareholder specifically “opts out” of the dividend reinvestment plan and chooses to receive cash distributions. During 2016 and 2015, the Company issued 57,500 and 16,600 shares, respectively, of common stock to shareholders in connection with the dividend reinvestment plan.
Securities authorized for issuance under equity compensation plans as of December 31, 2016:
Number of securities to be issued upon exercise of outstanding options, warrants and rights
Weighted-average exercise price of outstanding options, warrants and rights
Number of securities remaining available for future issuance under equity compensation plans (excluding securities reflected in column (a))
Equity compensation plans approved by security holders
Equity compensation plans not approved by security holders
Stock Performance Graph
The following graph compares the return on our common stock with that of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Stock Index, the NASDAQ Composite Index, the Russell 2000, and S&P Small Cap 600 for the period from December 31, 2011 through December 31, 2016. The graph assumes that, on January 1, 2012, a person invested $100 in each of our common stock, the Nasdaq Composite, S&P 500 Index, Russell 2000 and S&P Small Cap 600. The graph measures total shareholder return, which takes into account both changes in stock price and dividends. It assumes that dividends paid are invested in like securities.
ITEM 6. SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA.
The following selected statements of operations and balance sheet data have been derived from the audited financial statements for each of the five years ended December 31, 2016. The Consolidated Financial Statements for the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2015, the period from November 12, 2014 to December 31, 2014, the period from January 1, 2014 to November 11, 2014 and the year ended December 31, 2013 have been audited by RSM US LLP. The Consolidated Financial Statements for
the two years ended December 31, 2012 (not separately presented herein) have been audited by CohnReznick LLP. The selected financial data set forth below should be read in conjunction with, and is qualified by reference to, “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and our Consolidated Financial Statements, including the Notes thereto, available at www.sec.gov.
As a Business Development Company
Prior to becoming a Business Development Company
November 12, 2014 to December 31, 2014
January 1, 2014 to November 11, 2014
Statement of Operations Data:
Net investment loss
Net increase in net assets
Net realized and unrealized gains (losses)
Per Share Data:
Net investment loss
Net increase in net assets
Basic earnings per share
Diluted earnings per share
Balance Sheet Data (at end of period):
Investments, at fair value
Net assets/shareholders' equity
Common shares outstanding at end of period
ITEM 7. MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS.
Introduction and Certain Cautionary Statements
The following discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations is intended to assist in the understanding and assessment of significant changes and trends related to the results of operations and financial position of the Company together with its subsidiaries. This discussion and analysis should be read in conjunction with the consolidated financial statements and the accompanying notes.
The statements in this Annual Report may contain forward-looking statements relating to such matters as anticipated future financial performance, business prospects, legislative developments and similar matters. We note that a variety of factors could cause our actual results to differ materially from the anticipated results expressed in the forward looking statements such as intensified competition and/or operating problems in its operating business projects and their impact on revenues and profit margins or additional factors as described under “Risk Factors” above.
We are a leading national non-bank lender and own and control certain portfolio companies under the Newtek® brand (our “controlled portfolio companies,” as defined below) that provide a wide range of business and financial products to small- and medium-sized businesses (“SMBs”). Newtek's products and services include: Business Lending, including U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) 7(a) and 504 lending, Electronic Payment Processing, Managed Technology Solutions (Cloud Computing), eCommerce, Accounts Receivable and Inventory Financing, The Secure Gateway, The Newtek Advantage®, personal and commercial Insurance Services, Web Services, Data Backup, Store and Retrieval and Payroll and Benefits Solutions to SMB accounts nationwide across all industries. We have an established and reliable platform that is not limited by client size, industry type, or location. As a result, we believe we have a strong and diversified client base across every state in the U.S and across a variety of different industries. In addition, we have developed a financial and technology based business model that enables us and our controlled portfolio companies to acquire and process our SMB clients in a very cost effective manner. This capability is supported in large part by NewTracker®, our patented prospect management technology software, which is similar to but we believe better than the system popularized by Salesforce.com. We believe that this technology and business model distinguishes us from our competitors.
We consolidate the following wholly-owned subsidiaries:
Newtek Small Business Finance, LLC
Newtek Asset Backed Securities, LLC
The Whitestone Group, LLC
Wilshire Colorado Partners, LLC
Wilshire DC Partners, LLC
Wilshire Holdings I, Inc.
Wilshire Louisiana Bidco, LLC
Wilshire Louisiana Partners II, LLC
Wilshire Louisiana Partners III, LLC
Wilshire Louisiana Partners IV, LLC
Wilshire New York Advisers II, LLC
Wilshire New York Partners III, LLC
Wilshire New York Partners IV, LLC
Wilshire New York Partners V, LLC
CCC Real Estate Holdings, LLC
Banc-Serv Acquisition Inc.
Exponential Business Development Co., Inc.
Newtek Business Services Holdco 1, Inc.
Our common shares are currently listed on the Nasdaq Global Market under the symbol “NEWT”.
NSBF has been granted Preferred Lender Program (“PLP”) status and originates, sells and services SBA 7(a) small business loans and is authorized to place SBA guarantees on loans without seeking prior SBA review and approval. Being a national lender, PLP status allows NSBF to expedite the origination of loans since NSBF is not required to present applications to the SBA for concurrent review and approval. The loss of PLP status could adversely impact our marketing efforts and ultimately our loan origination volume which could negatively impact our results of operations.
As a BDC, our investment objective is to generate both current income and capital appreciation primarily through loans originated by our small business finance platform and our equity investments in certain portfolio companies that we control.
We target our debt investments, which are principally made through our small business finance platform under the SBA 7(a) program, to produce a coupon rate of prime plus 2.75% which enables us to generate rapid sales of loans in the secondary market. We typically structure our debt investments with the maximum seniority and collateral along with personal guarantees from portfolio company owners, in many cases collateralized by other assets including real estate. In most cases, our debt investment will be collateralized by a first lien on the assets of the portfolio company and a first or second lien on assets of guarantors, in both cases primarily real estate. All SBA loans are made with personal guarantees from any owner(s) of 20% or more of the portfolio company’s equity.
We typically structure our debt investments to include non-financial covenants that seek to minimize our risk of capital loss such as lien protection and prohibitions against change of control. Our debt investments have strong protections, including default penalties, information rights and, in some cases, board observation rights and affirmative, negative and financial covenants. Debt investments in portfolio companies, including the controlled portfolio companies, have historically and are expected to continue to comprise the majority of our overall investments in number and dollar volume.
While the vast majority of our investments have been structured as debt, we have in the past and expect in the future to make selective equity investments primarily as either strategic investments to enhance the integrated operating platform or, to a lesser degree, under the Capco programs. For investments in our controlled portfolio companies, we focus more on tailoring them to the long term growth needs of the companies than to immediate return. Our objectives with these companies is to foster the development of the businesses as a part of the integrated operational platform of serving the SMB market, so we may reduce the burden on these companies to enable them to grow faster than they would otherwise and as another means of supporting their development.
We regularly engage in discussions with third parties with respect to various potential transactions. We may acquire an investment or a portfolio of investments or an entire company or sell a portion of our portfolio on an opportunistic basis. We, our subsidiaries, or our affiliates may also agree to manage certain other funds that invest in debt, equity or provide other financing or services to companies in a variety of industries for which we may earn management or other fees for our services. We may also invest in the equity of these funds, along with other third parties, from which we would seek to earn a return and/or future incentive allocations. Some of these transactions could be material to our business. Consummation of any such transaction will be subject to completion of due diligence, finalization of key business and financial terms (including price) and negotiation of final definitive documentation as well as a number of other factors and conditions including, without limitation, the approval of our board of directors and required regulatory or third party consents and, in certain cases, the approval of our shareholders. Accordingly, there can be no assurance that any such transaction would be consummated. Any of these transactions or funds may require significant management resources either during the transaction phase or on an ongoing basis depending on the terms of the transaction.
In June 2016, we invested $5,400,000 in exchange for 100% of the membership interests in BSP, a new wholly owned and controlled portfolio company. BSP provides over 350 lending institutions with outsourced solutions for the entire SBA lending process, including credit analysis, structuring and eligibility, packaging, closing compliance and servicing.
We generate revenue in the form of interest, dividend, servicing and other fee income on debt and equity investments. Our debt investments typically have a term of 10 to 25 years and bear interest at prime plus a margin. In some instances, we receive payments on our debt investments based on scheduled amortization of the outstanding balances. In addition, we receive repayments of some of our debt investments prior to their scheduled maturity date. The frequency or volume of these repayments fluctuates significantly from period to period. Our portfolio activity also reflects the proceeds of sales of securities. We receive servicing income related to the guaranteed portions of SBA investments which we sell into the secondary market. These recurring fees are earned daily and recorded when earned. In addition, we may generate revenue in the form of packaging, prepayment, legal and late fees. We record such fees related to loans as other income. Dividends are recorded as dividend income on an accrual basis to the extent that such amounts are payable by the portfolio company and are expected to be collected. Dividend income is recorded at the time dividends are declared. Distributions of earnings from portfolio companies are evaluated to determine if the distribution is income, return of capital or realized gain.
We recognize realized gains or losses on investments based on the difference between the net proceeds from the disposition and the cost basis of the investment without regard to unrealized gains or losses previously recognized. We record current period changes in fair value of investments and assets that are measured at fair value as a component of the net change in unrealized appreciation (depreciation) on investments or servicing assets, as appropriate, in the consolidated statements of operations.
Our primary operating expenses are salaries and benefits, interest expense and other general and administrative costs, such as professional fees, marketing, loan related costs and rent. Since we are an internally-managed BDC with no outside adviser or management company, the BDC incurs all the related costs to operate the Company.
Loan Portfolio Asset Quality and Composition
The following table sets forth distribution by business type of the Company’s SBA 7(a) unguaranteed loan portfolio at December 31, 2016 (in thousands):
Distribution by Business Type
# of Loans
% of Balance
The following table sets forth distribution by borrower’s credit score of the Company’s SBA 7(a) unguaranteed loan portfolio at December 31, 2016 (in thousands):
Distribution by Borrower Credit Score
# of Loans
% of Balance
500 to 550
551 to 600
601 to 650
651 to 700
701 to 750
751 to 800
801 to 850
The following table sets forth distribution by primary collateral type of the Company’s SBA 7(a) unguaranteed loan portfolio at December 31, 2016 (in thousands):
Distribution by Primary Collateral Type
# of Loans
% of Balance
Commercial Real Estate