Tag Archives: Leveraged Loan

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.


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.


“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.


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

Janet Yellen Says It’s Time For “Alarm” As Leveraged Loan Bubble Runs Amok

The deluge of leveraged loans is getting increasingly difficult to regulate as it takes over Wall Street. A new report brings up a perfect example of this: Bomgar Corp., who just lined up $439 million in loans. It was the company’s third trip to the debt markets this year and estimates have the company’s leverage potentially spiking as high as 15 times its earnings going forward, raising the obvious question of the risk profile of these loans.

As rates move higher like they are now, the loans – whose interest rates reference such floating instruments as LIBOR or Prime – pay out more. As a result, as the Fed tightens the money supply, defaults tend to increase as the interest expenses rise and as the overall cost of capital increases. And because an increasing amount of the financing for these loans is done outside of the traditional banking sector, regulators and agencies like the Federal Reserve aren’t able to do much to rein it in. The market for leveraged loans and junk bonds is now over $2 trillion. 


Escalating the risk of the unbridled loan explosion, none other than Janet Yellen – who is directly responsible for the current loan bubble – recently told Bloomberg that “regulators should sound the alarm. They should make it clear to the public and the Congress there are things they are concerned about and they don’t have the tools to fix it.”

Thanks Janet.


As we noted recently, the risks of such loans defaulting are obvious, including loss of jobs and risk to companies on both the borrowing and the lending side. 

Tobias Adrian, a former senior vice president at the New York Fed who’s now the IMF’s financial markets chief, told Bloomberg: “…supporting growth is important, but future downside risks also need to be considered.” He also stated that regulators had “limited tools to rein in nonbank credit”.

But you’d never know this by listening to the Federal Reserve. According to Fed chairman Jerome Powell, during his press conference Wednesday, the Fed doesn’t see any risks right now. Powell said that “overall vulnerabilities” were “moderate”. He also stated that banks today “take much less risk than they used to”… We’ll pause for the obligatory golf clap. 

Goldman Warns Of A Default Wave As $1.3 Trillion In Debt Is Set To Mature

The lenders for the Bomgar deal included Jefferies Financial Group Inc. and Golub Capital BDC Inc., names that are outside the reach of the Fed. The company itself used the astounding defense that its pro forma leverage may only be “about seven times earnings”, which for some reason they seem to think is manageable, despite it obviously being an aggressive amount of leverage.

And since lenders may not ultimately wind up being the ones that pay the piper in the case of a default, the standards are lax on all sides. These types of loans are generally either bought by mutual funds or sometimes packaged into other securities that are sold to investors.

Of course, the harder that regulators squeeze to try to prevent these types of loans, the quicker that the market slips past them evolves. Trying to tighten loan standards has instead resulted in the market shifting to less regulated lenders, including companies like KKR & Co., Jefferies and Nomura. Hedge funds are next.


The history of regulating leveraged loans goes back to 2013, when the Fed and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. issued guidance that told banks what acceptable leverage was. It restricted traditional banks from participating in the riskiest of these deals. Jerome Powell in 2015 said that this type of regulation would stop “a return to pre-crisis conditions”. Yes, the same Jerome Powell who today doesn’t see any risk. 

Of course, Wall Street lobbied against this back then, as did Republican lawmakers, declaring it as an overreach of regulation. And so now that the market has evolved in its wake, the leveraged loan market has started to run amok again.

Joseph Otting, the former banker who leads the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is quoted as stating in February that: “…institutions should have the right to do the leveraged lending they want as long as they have the capital and personnel to manage that.”

Trying to put a favorable spin on current events, Richard Taft, the OCC’s deputy comptroller for credit risk, stated this month: “There isn’t anything going on in the market right now that would cause us to increase our supervision of that because we are always looking at that type of portfolio.”

Increased demand also means that yields won’t rise much even though loan quality has gotten worse. Investors may not be compensated for the risk that they’re taking, as we pointed out recently. We quoted Guy LeBas, chief fixed-income strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC, who stated: “It’s not a good time to be buying bank loans”.

He also noted something troubling which we have discussed on numerous prior occasions: the collapse in lender protections which are worse than usual as there’s a smaller pool of creditors to absorb losses, and as covenant protection has never been weaker.


Source: ZeroHedge