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As M&A lags, Europe's PE shops look to leveraged loans, high yield for dividends

Market pros see leveraged loan default rate holding at low levels

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As M&A lags, Europe's PE shops look to leveraged loans, high yield for dividends

The European leveraged finance markets swallowed five new dividend-related transactions totalling €2.24 billion in November, as a lull in M&A activity in the fourth quarter allowed issuers to hit the market with opportunistic transactions.

For much of the year, such dividend-related issuance has not been possible as M&A transactions dominated the primary market. “We’ve just had a six-week period with no M&A, and it’s been the first real opportunistic window we’ve seen this year,” said one market participant. “When the window is there, why would private equity turn down the chance to return money to shareholders and protect its returns?”

europe sponsored loan volume


But while there was a small spurt in dividend recap supply in November, the dominance of M&A activity over much of 2018 means the volume of opportunistic recaps seen so far this year has still fallen well behind some previous years.

The loan market has hosted roughly €5.87 billion of dividend activity so far this year while the bond market has taken €1.41 billion, for a total of €7.28 billion, according to LCD. While this is higher than the totals recorded in 2015 and 2016 on this measure (at €3.67 billion and €5.61 billion, respectively), it is still way behind the record-breaking volume racked up in 2017, when the market was dominated by opportunistic activity.

The dividend recaps seen so far in 2018 have resulted in some €2.64 billion being returned to shareholders via the leveraged finance market, which is well below the average of €4.5 billion for the 2006–2017 period. By contrast, in 2017 roughly €8.15 billion was returned to shareholders from the proceeds of deals in the bond and loan markets. — Nina Flitman

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LCD comps is an offering of S&P Global Market Intelligence. LCD’s subscription site offers complete news, analysis and data covering the global leveraged loan and high yield bond markets. You can learn more about LCD here.