Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Are high-yield bonds and floating-rate loans at risk?

The constant pursuit of yield in this low interest rate environment might have pushed the demand for high-yield bonds and floating-rate loans high enough to impact judgement of banks underwriting and backing new issues.

Banks are frantically underwriting high-yield bonds and financing syndicated floating-rate loans, counting on investors to absorb everything coming to markets.

Interest rates for new bond and loan issues have dropped, prompting borrowers do more acquisitions, buybacks. etc.

Private equity fund operators are some of the largest biggest users of high-yield bonds to arrange leveraged and management buyouts. Floating-rate loans are used in buyout deals as well.

Low interest rates, willingness of banks to underwrite bonds and loans, and readiness of investors to acquire bonds and invest in loans have pushed mergers & acquisitions and buyout activities to new highs. Valuations of companies being snapped up in auction style sales are breaking records after records, reminiscent of 2007.

The illustration to the left, a deal tombstone published in the Dow Jones Private Equity News, speaks to it. In this case, a large private equity and LBO operator borrowed $1.75 billion to supplements its own funds to acquire more companies. Keep in mind that acquisitions are done by issuing high-yield bonds, to add to the equity. As such, banks are lending loans to add to the equity of the buyer, all while still lending more via high-yield bonds. More leverage to execute more purchases. All loans and bonds will end up in investor accounts, through mutual funds and ETFs, in a very short order.

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