Big-ticket LBOs are driving the U.S. leveraged loan market in 2018.
So far this year $90 billion of credits backing buyouts have been launched or completed in the syndicated loan market, nearly as much as in all of 2017, according to LCD.
The 2018 LBO loan figure has received a huge boost of late via a spate of jumbo transactions. Chief among them is Refinitiv, which includes $6.5 billion of institutional loan debt backing Blackstone’s $17 billion takeover of Thomson Reuter’s financial data and technology unit (the PE firm is acquiring a 55% stake). The loan portion of the deal was targeted for $5.5 billion, but was increased due to investor demand.
Tellingly, the high yield bond portion of the Refinitiv financing was decreased at the same time, illustrating the clear preference that speculative-grade debt investors have for loans this year, compared to bonds
As is often the case, LBO loans and other M&A deals are in keen demand from institutional investors as these credits generally offer higher pricing and richer returns than do non-M&A credits, because of their increased leverage and often-aggressive terms.
Of course, with the chance for higher returns comes more risk. This is especially the case today, as most credits completed in market now are covenant-lite, meaning they are less restrictive for the issuer, and consequently offer investors and lenders less protection during the life of the loan.
Indeed, of the $90 billion in LBO loans so far this year, $78 billion is cov-lite. This tracks with the overall U.S. leveraged loan asset class, which now totals some $1.1 trillion, according to the S&P/LSTA Index. Roughly 80% of those outstandings are cov-lite. – Staff reports
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