W.R. Grace exits bankruptcy protection (updated)

01:44 AM | February 4, 2014 | Robert Westervelt

W. R. Grace emerged from bankruptcy protection late Monday, ending nearly 13 years of operation under Chapter 11 protection to address asbestos-related claims.

The company’s joint plan of reorganization, which became effective 3 February, establishes two independent trusts to compensate asbestos claimants. The trusts will be funded with more than $4 billion from a variety of sources, including cash; warrants to purchase Grace common stock; deferred payment obligations; insurance proceeds; and payments from former affiliates, such as Sealed Air.

Grace filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on 2 April 2001, citing more than 61,000 asbestos-related lawsuits at the time.

The company reached a settlement with holders of the company’s prepetition bank debt in late December 2013. Other potential final appeals, all related to asbestos claims passed an early December deadline for filings with the US Supreme Court with no further appeals.

Separately, Grace announced today, 4 February, that its board has authorized a share repurchase program of up to $500 million, or roughly 6.8% of outstanding shares based current market capitalization. “Our strong balance sheet and cash flow provide the financial flexibility both to invest in growth and return capital to shareholders,” says Fred Festa, Grace’s chairman and CEO. The repurcase is expected to be completed over the next 12–24 months, Grace says.

Grace shares were up 4% on 4 February, closing at $95.02/share. The company is scheduled to release fourth-quarter results on Wednesday, 5 February.