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Tousa Creditors Hire Lawyer

Debtholders brace for a possible bankruptcy at the homebuilder.

With the housing boom in a massive retreat, homebuilders are feeling a lot of pressure -- perhaps none more so than




The Hollywood, Fla.-based builder of single-family residences, town homes and condominiums has seen its shares lose more than 90% of their value over the last year. The dismal news seems to have given Tousa's unsecured creditors cause for concern that Tousa may be on its way to a bankruptcy filing.

A creditor group that owns more than $1 billion in senior notes and subordinated debt has hired law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer Feld to assess its rights in the event of a bankruptcy filing,

has learned.

A call to executives at Tousa were directed to a spokesman who didn't return a call for comment. A spokeswoman at the law firm in New York declined to comment.

Back on Oct. 8, the company announced that it had hired

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to advise it and review Tousa's capital structure.

The identity of the creditor group could not be learned, but the unsecured debtholders -- comprising various debt funds and hedge fund shops that acquired the debt in the secondary market -- want to be prepared should Tousa decide to let the courts sort out its capital structure.

Tousa, whose market capitalization has shrunk to $48 million due to the stock's cratering, has about $550 million in senior unsecured notes and another batch of $510 million in unsecured subordinated debt. It's also laden with $300 million of second-lien debt and $200 million of first-lien paper. The company carries an $800 million revolving line of credit of which about $50 million is outstanding.

Joe Snider, senior credit officer at Moody's Investors Service, downgraded the homebuilder's debt rating to Caa3 from Caa1 back in July, when the company was forced to take on additional debt originally meant to be non-recourse to the company.

"They really reduced the financial flexibility of the company to zero, in our opinion," Snider says.

The analyst foresees continued challenges for all the homebuilders, including giants like


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. But potentially intensifying Tousa's problems is its hefty supply of land and its focus on a challenged Florida homebuilding market.

"There is definitely a lot of pressure. Just about every one of the macro economic indicators are flashing serious warning signs," Snider added.