Tag Archives: Corporate Credit

The Bond Market Has Frozen: For The First Month Since 2008, Not A Single Junk Bond Prices

Late last week, we reported that in the aftermath of a dramatic drop in loan prices, a record outflow from loan funds, and a general collapse in investor sentiment that was euphoric as recently as the start of October, the wheels had come off the loan market which was on the verge of freezing after we got the first hung bridge loan in years, after Wells Fargo and Barclays took the rare step of keeping a $415 million leveraged loan on their books after failing to sell it to investors.

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The two banks now “plan” to wait until January – i.e., hope that yield chasing desperation returns – to offload the loan they made to help finance Blackstone’s buyout of Ulterra Drilling Technologies, a company that makes bits for oil and gas drilling.

The reason the banks were stuck with hundreds of millions in unwanted paper is because they had agreed to finance the bridge loan whether or not there was enough demand from investors, as the acquisition needed to close by the end of the year. The delayed transaction means the banks will have to bear the risk of the price of the loans falling further, as well as costs associated with holding loans on their books.

The pulled Ulterra deal wasn’t alone.

As ZeroHedge reported previously, in Europe the market appears to have already locked up, as three loans were scrapped over the last two weeks. To wit, movie theater chain Vue International withdrew a 833 million pound-equivalent ($1.07 billion) loan sale. While the deal was meant to mostly refinance existing debt, around 100 million pounds was underwritten to finance the company’s acquisition of German group CineStar.

More deals were pulled the prior week when diversified manufacturer Jason Inc. became at least the fourth issuer to scrap a U.S. leveraged loan. Additionally, Perimeter Solutions also pulled its repricing attempt, Ta Chen International scrapped a $250MM term loan set to finance the company’s purchase of a rolling mill, and Algoma Steel withdrew its $300m exit financing. Global University System in November also dropped its dollar repricing.

Today, the FT picks up on the fact that the junk bond market – whether in loans or bonds – has frozen up, and reported that US credit markets have “ground to a halt” with fund managers refusing to fund buyouts and investors shunning high-yield bond sales as rising interest rates and market volatility weigh on sentiment (ironically it is the rising rates that assure lower rates as financial conditions tighten and the Fed is forced to resume easing in the coming year, that has been a major hurdle to floating-rate loan demand as the same higher rates that pushed demand for paper to all time highs are set to reverse).

Meanwhile, things are even worse in the bond market, where not a single company has borrowed money through the $1.2tn US high-yield corporate bond market this month according to the FT. If that freeze continues until the end of the month, it would be the first month since November 2008 that not a single high-yield bond priced in the market, according to data providers Informa and Dealogic.

Separately, as we already reported, the FT notes that in the loan market at least two deals – including the Barclays/Wells bridge loan – were postponed and could be the first of several transactions pulled from the market this year, bankers and investors said, as mutual funds and managers of collateralised loan obligations — the largest buyer by far in the leveraged loan sector — wait out the uncertainty.

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“This is clearly more than year-end jitters,” said Guy LeBas, a strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott. “What we’re seeing now is pretty typical for end-of-credit-cycle behaviour.”

A prolonged period of low interest rates since the financial crisis a decade ago has seen companies binge on cheap debt. However, as financial conditions have tightened, the high level of corporate leverage has raised widespread concern among regulators, analysts and investors.

In the loan market, it’s not a total disaster just yet, because even as prices have slumped over the past two months, banks that committed to finance highly leveraged buyouts – including JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs –  have offered loans at substantial discounts to entice investors. As the chart below shows, the average new issue yield by month has exploded to the highest in years, with CCC-rated issuers forced to pay the most in 7 years to round up investor demand.

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Still, as the following table from Bank of America shows, quite a few deals have priced, if only in the loan market:

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/loan%20issuance.jpg?itok=bafJsKvo(Click image to enlarge)

Even so, other banks including Barclays, Deutsche Bank, UBS and Wells Fargo, have had to pull deals altogether as they just couldn’t find enough buyers no matter how generous the concessions.

In addition to the Ulterra deal, technology services provider ConvergeOne postponed a $1.3bn leveraged loan offering that backed its takeover by private equity group CVC last week. As the FT notes, Deutsche Bank and UBS had marketed the deal to investors in a package that included senior and subordinated loans, with the junior debt expected to yield as much as 12 per cent in November when prices were first floated. While the banks attracted some bids for the debt, orders failed to surpass the overall size of the deal, which was postponed to the new year, according to people with knowledge of the transaction.

Why delaying deals into 2019? One word: hope.

One person familiar with the deal said the banks would market the loans again in January, when they hope market conditions will improve, and that other leveraged loans being marketed could be postponed to 2019.

The trouble lenders have faced in the leveraged loan market has mirrored the exasperation felt by investors in other asset classes. Higher-quality investment-grade bonds have also sold off, with a number of planned deals pulled from the market in recent weeks.

That said, for now the junk bond freeze and loan indigestion has remained confined to lower-rated issuers. However, that may change too, and should the “Ice-9” spread to the high-grade sector, where the bulk of issuance is to fund buybacks and M&A, that’s when the real pain begins.

Source: ZeroHedge

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Credit Cracks Are Showing For Corporate Borrowers

Anecdotal evidence suggests that corporate borrowers may be due for a reckoning.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/credit.jpg?itok=hWhkDVRDA growing spider web of evidence suggests a credit reckoning may be near.

For years, the naysayers have been warning about the precariousness of the corporate credit market. In an environment where balance sheets have become more and more bloated from excess borrowing stoked by the Federal Reserve’s easy-money policies, shrinking bond yield premiums don’t make sense. At some point, they argue, there will have to be a reckoning.

Could we be nearing that point?  

On the surface, it’s hard not to like corporate bonds, despite yields being at some of their lowest levels relative to U.S. Treasuries since before the financial crisis. After all, corporate earnings are booming, thanks to an expanding economy and tax cuts, and the default rate is miniscule at less than 3 percent. On top of that, the number of companies poised for an upgrade at S&P Global Ratings is the highest in a decade.    

All that said, there’s mounting anecdotal evidence of possible cracks in the credit facade. One place you can see them is in the latest monthly survey put out by the National Association of Credit Management. This organization surveys 1,000 trade credit managers in the manufacturing and service industries across the U.S. Like most surveys of its kind lately, the main index number was down a bit from its recent highs. But some Wall Street strategists are focusing on a more alarming data point showing a collapse in a category called “dollar collections.” The index covering that part of the survey – which measures the ability of creditors to collect the money they are owed from their customers – tumbled to 46.7 in April from 59.6 in March, putting it at its lowest level since early 2009, the height of the financial crisis. 

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The folks at the NACM aren’t quite sure what to make of the big plunge, which could turn out to be an anomaly. What they do know, however, is that credit conditions are getting weaker. As they describe it, the strengthening economy has forced more companies to boost borrowings to keep pace with their competitors. Now, they may be struggling to keep on top of that debt.

“It looks like creditors are having more challenges as far as staying current, which may be contributing to the very weak dollar collection numbers,” NACM economist Chris Kuehl wrote in a report accompanying the monthly survey results. 

There may be something to that. The Institute of International Finance noted in a report last month that U.S. non-financial corporate debt rose to $14.5 trillion in 2017, an increase of $810 billion from 2016 and a figure that equates to 72 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (a post-crisis high). About 60 percent of the rise in debt stemmed from new bank loan creation, which is worrisome since those borrowings roll over more frequently than bonds and are tied to short-term interest rates, which are rising at a much faster clip than long-term rates. As an example, the three-month London Interbank Offered Rate for dollars has jumped to 2.35 percent from 1 percent at the start of 2017. While that’s still low historically, any small increase gets magnified across such a big amount of borrowings.  

“Rising interest rates will add pressure on corporates with large refinancing needs,” the Washington-based Institute of International Finance wrote in its report. It estimates about $3.8 trillion of loan repayments will be coming due annually. 

Credit is the lifeblood of the economy and financial markets. As such, it has a reputation for being a sort of early-warning system for investors and leading indicator for riskier assets such as equities. The equity strategists at Bloomberg Intelligence say they are noticing that stock performance is starting to correlate strongly with corporate balance sheet health as well as profitability. In an April report, they wrote that over the prior year, stocks of Standard & Poor’s 500 Index members with higher cash ratios outperformed low-ratio counterparts. Also, stocks of companies with higher net-debt ratios relative to both cash flow and market capitalization under performed lower-debt counterparts, with average monthly return differentials of 1.1 percentage points. 

A growing number of influential Wall Street firms, from Guggenheim Partners to Pacific Investment Management Co., and from BlackRock Inc. to Greg Lippmann – who helped design the “Big Short” trade against subprime mortgages – are raising the alarm about the dangers growing in credit markets. It may well be that the reckoning is closer than we think.

Source: ZeroHedge