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Caesars plans mid-January bankruptcy to shed debt

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    The Caesars Palace hotel-casino in Las Vegas. Caesars Entertainment officials say an early proposal to restructure company finances would have converted its debt-heavy division into a real estate investment trust.

LAS VEGAS >> Caesars Entertainment officials say they have a plan to shed $10 billion in debt from its weighed-down operations division and the OK from some creditors, putting Caesars Entertainment Operating Company on track to file for bankruptcy by mid-January to reorganize finances on its own terms.

In it, the company’s $18.4 billion in debt would shrink to $8.6 billion. It also wouldn’t be on the hook for $1.7 billion in annual interest payments, just $450 million.

But it’s far from a done deal.

There’s no guarantee the company’s plan will get a nod from the bankruptcy court or gambling regulators. And the company says the plan can’t happen if there are any lawsuits against it.

The agreement also needs more creditors on board, based on the company’s financial filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission. So far, the holders of 38 percent of the company’s debt are in but the company needs the holders of at least 60 percent of its debt to sign on, too.

According to the filing, the agreement requires Caesars’ operating company to voluntarily file for bankruptcy on Jan. 15 or no later than Jan. 20.

Creditors would also recover investments in cash and new debt, according to the terms outlined in the filing. Senior lenders would get $705 million in cash and $3.25 billion in new debt. Senior noteholders would get $413 million in cash and $2.3 billion in new debt.

Fitch Ratings financial analyst Alex Bumazhny said the company’s description of its plan didn’t offer too many surprises except for Caesars’ offer to sweeten the deal for lenders by offering $1.45 billion in cash to creditors who would rather have it than new debt under the plan.

While the announcement represented progress in Caesars ongoing efforts to overcome its heavy debt and negotiate with creditors, with a few leaving those discussions and in some cases suing the company, Bumazhny said Friday that the plan left plenty of uncertainty.

The plan appeared to be similar to recent disclosures from the company and creditors, with a proposal to split its Caesars Entertainment Operating Company into two companies, a publicly traded real estate investment trust that would own the hotel-casinos and an operating company that would pay $635 million annually to lease them.

It also involves mortgaging Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip to raise $2.6 billion with much of the cash paying off creditors.

CEO Gary Loveman said in a statement Friday that no one visiting the company’s hotel-casinos should notice a difference.

"Business operations at all properties and the Total Rewards program will continue as usual throughout the balance sheet restructuring process," he said.

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