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Wall St banks rush to sell leveraged buyout debt

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And BofA and Citigroup Inc are leading a syndicate testing investor appetite for a US$5.4bil (RM24bil) debt package to help fund Apollo Global Management Inc’s buyout of Tenneco Inc.

NEW YORK: Banks sitting on about US$80bil (RM355bil) in leveraged buyout (LBO) financing are pushing to get the debt off their books before market conditions deteriorate.

Bank of America Corp (BofA) has begun gauging interest in debt for the US$15bil (RM67bil) buyout of Citrix Systems Inc, one of the largest LBO financings of the past decade.

And BofA and Citigroup Inc are leading a syndicate testing investor appetite for a US$5.4bil (RM24bil) debt package to help fund Apollo Global Management Inc’s buyout of Tenneco Inc.

Leveraged debt markets have been losers this year, and more pain is likely after Wednesday’s inflation report all but assured a big rate increase coming from the Federal Reserve (Fed), but bankers see a window to get deals done.

Junk bond spreads tightened by about 50 basis points in the past week, according to Bloomberg index data. Leveraged loan prices have ticked up in recent days, though still hover near 92 US cents (RM4.08) on the dollar, the lowest since August 2020.

“There’s recognition that things aren’t going to get any better any time soon, so that’s why we’re seeing these LBO financings come now,” said Ken Monaghan, co-head of high yield at Amundi US.

“The market is weaker today (yesterday) after the CPI (consumer price index) print but the tone had improved a bit in the past week, so banks are also looking to take advantage of that. There’s demand for deals at the right level.”

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Bankers are also betting investors will consider the lack of choice.

The primary loan market had a handful of launches this week, including Apollo’s merger of grocery retailers Tony’s Fresh Markets and Cardenas Markets.

The deal offered a spread of 700 basis points over the Secured Overnight Financing Rate and a price of 92 US cents (RM4.08) on the dollar.

Underwriters committed to the latest round of buyout financing – Deutsche Bank AG estimates about US$80bil (RM355bil) in loans and bonds – months ago, when markets were more stable.

Since then, investors have fled junk bond and leveraged-loan markets as the Fed began raising rates and tightening liquidity to combat the worst inflation in four decades.

Now, deadlines to complete acquisitions are looming, which may force banks to fund deals themselves unless they can find investors in the market.

And depending on the price of the debt when sold – loans have been coming at steep discounts lately – the banks are at risk of losses running into the hundreds of millions of dollars. But that may be their best option.

“If banks don’t successfully price the debt tranches to finance buyout deals they agreed to, they may be stuck holding them on their balance sheets,” said Nichole Hammond, a senior portfolio manager at Angel Oak Capital Advisors.

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