Risks and Uncertainties
The following section examines the major risks and uncertainties that could materially affect YPG’s future business results and explains how these risks are managed.
Understanding and managing risks are important parts of YPG’s strategic planning process. The Board requires that our senior management identify and properly manage the principal risks related to our business operations. To understand and manage risks at YPG, our Board and senior management analyze risks in three major categories:
- Strategic risks - which are primarily external to the business;
- Financial risks - generally related to matters addressed in the Financial Risk Management Policy and in the Pension Statement of Investment Policy and Procedures; and,
- Operational risks - related principally to risks under the control of management across key functional areas of the organization.
YPG has put in place certain guidelines in order to manage the risks to which it may be exposed. Please refer to the Annual Information Form for a complete description of these risk factors. Despite these guidelines, the Company cannot provide assurances that any such efforts will be successful.
YPG competes with other directory and classified advertising businesses and with other forms of advertising media. This includes newspapers, television, radio, the Internet, mobile telecommunication devices, magazines, billboards and direct mail advertising.
These competitors may reduce their prices to increase their market share or may be able to offer their services at lower costs than we can. In either case, YPG could be forced to reduce prices or offer and perform other services in order to remain competitive. YPG’s failure to compete effectively with its current or future competitors could have a number of impacts such as, a reduction in its advertiser base, lower rates and increased costs. This could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and on our results of operations.
We actively monitor and assess our competition and determine our competitiveness within each of our markets. We address this competition by ensuring we best meet customer needs through targeted offers and pricing.
We continuously enhance our value proposition with initiatives targeting the following objectives:
- Enhancement of our product offerings and extension of our services to customers;
- Improvement of user experience; and
- Growth of traffic to our network of properties.
We also use multimedia campaigns to promote our brand and deliver our message to the market reinforcing the value our segments offer.
Decline in print revenue
YPG could be materially adversely affected if the usage of printed telephone directories decline at a rate higher than anticipated. The development of new technologies and the widespread use of Internet is causing changes in preferences and consumer habits. In particular, this has a significant influence on printed products, and the decrease in usage gradually leads to lower advertising revenues. The continuing transition in the media and publishing industries towards more online and targeted content is driving us to develop new products that leverage the demand for new media while ensuring that our print products remain a key component of our advertisers’ media mix.
Furthermore, given this transition from print to online and uncertainties surrounding whether and when new product introductions will compensate for the declining trend in print revenues, if revenue from our online products does not increase significantly, our cash flow, results of operations and financial condition may be adversely affected.
The availability of capital is dependent on the future operating performance of the Corporation’s business and the Corporation’s ability to refinance its indebtedness.
The ability of the Corporation to make scheduled payments under its indebtedness will depend on, among other things, its future operating performance. There can be no assurance that the Corporation will be able to generate sufficient cash from its operations to pay its debt obligations. Each of these factors is, to a large extent, subject to economic, financial, competitive, operational and other factors, many of which are beyond the Corporation’s control.
There can be no assurance that the Corporation will continue to be able to obtain on a timely basis sufficient funds on terms acceptable to the Corporation to provide adequate liquidity and to finance the operating and capital expenditures necessary to overcome the challenges associated with the transformation of its business and support its business strategy if cash flows from operations and cash on hand are insufficient.
The Corporation may need to refinance its available credit facilities or other debt and there can be no assurance that it will be able to do so or be able to do so on terms as favourable as those presently in place. If the Corporation is unable to refinance these credit facilities or other debt, or is only able to refinance these credit facilities or other debt on less favourable or more restrictive terms, this may have a material adverse effect on the Corporation, its business, results from operations and financial condition.
Failure to generate sufficient funds, whether from operations or debt or equity financings or refinancing transactions, could require the Corporation to delay or abandon some of its anticipated expenditures or to modify its business strategy and could have a material adverse effect on the Corporation, its business, results from operations and financial condition. Furthermore, competitors with greater liquidity or their ability to raise money more easily and on less onerous terms could create a competitive disadvantage for the Corporation.
There can be no assurance that the Corporation’s credit ratings will not be further downgraded, which would add to the Corporation’s borrowing costs, hamper its ability to attract capital, adversely impact its liquidity, and limit its ability to operate its business, all of which could have a material adverse effect on the Corporation, its business, results from operations and financial condition.
The Corporation’s substantial indebtedness could adversely affect its financial health and the Corporation’s efforts to refinance or reduce its indebtedness may not be successful.
The Corporation’s substantial amount of debt could have material adverse effects on the Corporation, its business, results from operations and financial condition. For example, it could:
- limit the Corporation’s ability to obtain additional financing, if needed, for working capital, capital expenditures, acquisitions, debt service requirements or other purposes;
- increase the Corporation’s vulnerability to adverse economic and industry conditions;
- require the Corporation to dedicate a substantial portion of its cash flows from operations to make payments on its debt, thereby reducing funds available for operations, future business opportunities or other purposes;
- limit the Corporation’s flexibility in planning for, or reacting to, changes in its business and its industry; and
- place the Corporation at a competitive disadvantage compared to its competitors that have less debt.
In addition, the Corporation’s credit facilities and other debt contain a number of financial and other restrictive covenants that require the Corporation to meet certain financial ratios and financial condition tests and limit the ability to enter into certain transactions. A failure to comply with the obligations in the credit facilities and other debt could result in a default which, if not cured or waived, could permit acceleration of the relevant indebtedness. If the indebtedness under the credit facilities or other debt were to be accelerated, there can be no assurance that the Corporation would have sufficient liquidity to repay in full that indebtedness.
The Company has begun evaluating alternatives to refinance maturities in 2012 and beyond. A broad range of alternatives will be considered and may involve the issuance of secured or unsecured debt, equity or other securities or other transactions. The Financing Committee will oversee this process with the objective of completing any transactions during the current fiscal year. The Corporation can provide no assurance that it will be able to complete any such refinancing transactions, or sell assets or complete any other debt reduction initiative that would enable it to reduce its outstanding debt.
The recent downgrades in Yellow Media's credit ratings may increase our borrowing costs.
DBRS Limited ("DBRS") lowered its corporate rating of the Corporation from BBB (high) to BBB on August 4, 2011 and to BB on September 28, 2011. In addition, DBRS revised their rating to R-4 for the Corporation’s commercial paper, B (high) for its convertible subordinated debentures rating and Pfd-4 (low) for its preferred shares.
Standard & Poor's Ratings Services ("S&P") lowered its corporate credit rating on the Corporation from 'BBB-' to 'BB+', with a ratings outlook of stable, on August 4, 2011 and to 'BB-' placed under CreditWatch with negative implications on December 4, 2011. In addition, S& P lowered the issue-level rating on the company's senior unsecured debt to 'BB-' from 'BB+'. The agency also lowered its rating on the Corporation’s subordinated debt to 'B' from 'BB-'. Finally, S&P reduced the rating on the preferred shares to 'P-4 (Low)' from 'P-4 (High)'.
Because we could potentially rely on external sources of financing to refinance our existing debt or enter into other debt transactions related to our capital structure, the recent downgrades of our debt ratings could increase our borrowing costs or potentially reduce our liquidity and, therefore, adversely affect our results of operations.
Dividends are not expected to be paid with respect to our common stock and preferred shares for the foreseeable future.
We do not anticipate that cash dividends or other distributions will be paid with respect to our common shares or preferred shares in the foreseeable future. In addition, restrictive covenants in our credit agreement, as amended on September 28, 2011, prohibit us from paying dividends to our common shareholders.
Interest rate fluctuations
YPG is exposed to fluctuations in short term interest rates on some of its financial obligations bearing variable interest rates. YPG is also exposed to fluctuations in long term interest rates and credit spreads relative to the refinancing of its debt obligations upon their maturity. The interest rate on new long term debt issuances will be based on the prevailing market rates at the time of the refinancing and will depend on the tenor of the new debt issued. Increases in short term interest rates and increases in interest rates on new debt issuances may have a material adverse effect on our earnings.
We manage interest rate exposure by maintaining a balanced schedule of debt maturities, and through a combination of fixed and floating interest rate obligations. YPG monitors market conditions and the impact of interest rate fluctuations on our fixed-to-floating interest rate exposure mix. From time to time, we enter into interest rate swap agreements and other interest rate derivatives in order to manage this exposure.
We may be required to make contributions to our pension plans in the future depending on various factors including future returns on pension plan assets, long-term interest rates and changes in pension regulations, which may have a negative effect on our liquidity and results of operations.
The funding requirements of our pension plans, resulting from valuations of our pension plan assets and liabilities, depend on a number of factors, including actual returns on pension plan assets, long-term interest rates, plan demographic and pension regulations. Changes in these factors could cause actual future contributions to significantly differ from our current estimates and could require us to make contributions to our pension plans in the future and, therefore, could have a negative effect on our liquidity and results of operations.
There is no assurance that our pension plans will be able to earn their assumed rate of return. A material portion of our pension plans' assets is invested in public equity securities. As a result, the ability of our pension plans to earn the rate of return that we have assumed significantly depends on the performance of capital markets. The market conditions also impact the discount rate used to calculate our solvency obligations and thereby could also significantly affect our cash funding requirements.
YPG's reliance on outsourcing for billing, collection, printing and binding and other services
We have a Billing and Collection Services Agreement with Bell Canada and a Master Billing and Collection Services Agreement with TELUS, a Billing and Collection Services Agreement with MTS Allstream Inc. and a Billing and Collection Service Agreement with Bell Aliant. Through these agreements, our billing is included as a separate line item on the telephone bills of Bell, TELUS, MTS Allstream Inc. and Bell Aliant customers who use our services respectively. Bell Canada, TELUS, MTS Allstream Inc. and Bell Aliant (the Telco Partners) contract with third parties to conduct monthly billing of customers who use them as their local telephone service providers. In addition, the Telco Partners provide collection services for YPG with those advertisers who are also their customers. Additionally, YPG has entered into publishing agreements with each Telco Partner. If YPG fails to perform its obligations under these agreements and the agreements are consequently terminated by such Telco Partner, other agreements with such Telco Partners may also be terminated, including the Bell Canada Trademark License Agreement, the TELUS Trademark License Agreement, the MTS Allstream Inc. Branding and Trademark Agreement and the Bell Aliant Branding and Trademark Agreement, as well as non-competition covenants we benefit from with such Telco Partners.
We have agreements with outside service suppliers to print and distribute our directories and publications. These agreements are for services that are integral to our business.
The failure of the Telco Partners or any of the other suppliers to fulfill their contractual obligations under these agreements could result in a material adverse effect on our business until we could find a replacement supplier for those services.
Advertisers who do not use the Telco Partners as their local telephone provider are billed directly by YPG. Our internal billing and collection services are cost-effective and can be grown as our customer base expands.
Reliance on key brands and trademarks and failure to protect intellectual property rights
YPG relies heavily on its existing brands and trademarks for a significant portion of its revenues. Failure to adequately maintain the strength and integrity of these brands and trademarks, or to develop new brands and trademarks, could adversely affect our results from operations and our financial condition.
It is possible that third parties could infringe upon, misappropriate or challenge the validity of YPG’s trademarks or our other intellectual property rights. This could have a material adverse effect on our business, our financial condition or our operating results. The actions that YPG takes to protect its trademarks and other proprietary rights may not be adequate. Litigation may be necessary to enforce or protect YPG's intellectual property rights, its trade secrets or to determine the validity and scope of the proprietary rights of others. We cannot ensure that we will be able to prevent infringement of our intellectual property rights or misappropriation of our proprietary information.
Any such infringement or misappropriation could harm any competitive advantage we currently derive, or may derive, from our proprietary rights. Third parties may assert infringement claims against YPG. Any such claims and any resulting litigation could subject YPG to significant liability for damages. An adverse judgement arising from any litigation of this type could require YPG to design around a third party's patent or to license alternative technology from another party. In addition, litigation may be time-consuming and expensive to defend against and could result in the diversion of YPG's time and resources. Any claims from third parties may also result in limitations on YPG's ability to use the intellectual property subject to these claims.
We devote significant resources to the development and protection of our trademarks and take a proactive approach to protecting our brand exclusivity.
Certain non-management employees of YPG are unionized. Current union agreements range between two to four years in duration and are subject to expiration at various dates in the future. If YPG is unable to renew these agreements as they come up for renegotiation from time to time, it could result in work stoppages and other labour disturbances which could have a material adverse effect on our business.
We manage labour relations risk by ensuring that collective agreements’ expiration dates are strategically positioned to minimize potential disruptions on both a regional (geographic) or on a functional (sales and clerical) basis. Also, every negotiation process to renew a collective agreement includes a cross-functional team in which all business units are represented. This team has the responsibility to develop and ultimately implement an effective contingency plan that would allow YPG to continue its day to day operations with minimal disruptions in the event of a labour dispute.
Income Tax Matters
In the normal course of the Company's activities, the tax authorities are carrying out ongoing reviews. In that respect, Yellow Media Inc. is of the view that all expenses claimed by the different entities of the group are reasonable and deductible and that the cost amount and capital cost allowance claims of such entities' depreciable properties have been correctly determined. There is no assurance that the tax authorities may not challenge these positions. Such challenge, if successful, may have an adverse effect on our earnings and may affect the return to shareholders.
The Corporation may be subject to impairment losses that would reduce its reported assets and earnings. Goodwill and identifiable intangible assets comprise a substantial portion of the Corporation’s total assets. Economic, legal, regulatory, competitive, contractual and other factors may affect the value of goodwill and identifiable intangible assets. If any of these factors impair the value of these assets, accounting rules would require the Corporation to reduce their carrying value and recognize an impairment charge, which would reduce the reported assets and earnings of the Corporation in the year the impairment charge is recognized.
Recent Acquisitions of New Businesses
Acquisitions of new businesses could expose the Corporation to business risks, including difficulties in integrating administrative, financial reporting, and operational systems, difficulties in managing newly acquired operations and improving their operating efficiency, and difficulties in retaining key employees of the acquired operations and diversions of management time and resources. In addition, future acquisitions could result in the incurrence of additional debt, costs, and contingent liabilities. Moreover, expected synergies for acquisitions completed may not materialize.