(Carl Cronan is editor of Real EstateFlorida.)
BONITA SPRINGS, FL-A buyout or bankruptcy appear to be the only remaining options for WCI Communities Inc. now that the luxury home and condominium developer has apparently canceled its restructuring plans with outside parties, including billionaire investor Carl Icahn. Observers say the move may adversely affect sales of units in unfinished condo towers throughout Florida.
WCI, which has plans to build 15,000 homes along the East Coast at prices up to $10 million, issued a brief statement Monday that “although it continues to review and evaluate alternative restructuring proposals, WCI is not currently engaged in discussions with affiliates regarding such proposals.” The company added that a “special committee” formed in June to review and evaluate proposals has been dissolved.
The announcement comes as a surprise to many real estate analysts, who have been watching efforts by Icahn, WCI’s chairman, to expand his stake in the company beyond 14.5% currently. Icahn could still pursue a buyout of the entire company, unless it first files Chapter 11 reorganization in federal bankruptcy court.
“Icahn has always been the wild card in this,” Jack McCabe, CEO of McCabe Research & Consulting LLC in Deerfield Beach, tells GlobeSt.com. “Whether the company survives or is liquidated is very much up to him.”
Key to WCI’s survival is its ability to repay mounting debt that has resulted from the declining housing market. The company has already stated that it is unlikely to repay $125 million in convertible senior notes coming due Aug. 5, and last week offered until Aug. 4 to replace its 4% convertible notes with new 16% senior secured notes due in 2013.
WCI, based in Bonita Springs, has land positions through Florida, particularly along the Gulf Coast from Tampa to Marco Island, with additional sites in South Florida, Palm Coast, Jacksonville Beach and Perdido Key. Its other developments are primarily within the metropolitan areas of New York City and Washington, DC.
WCI’s latest action raises more questions than answers, such as whether homebuyers with contracts will be willing to complete those deals if they believe the developer is headed to bankruptcy, McCabe says. He also points out that some upscale condo buyers may pursue legal action to get out of contracts and recover sizeable deposits, a common occurrence hitting condo developers throughout the Sunshine State.