Junk-bond Calendar Is Bulging

Earlier this week, Standard & Poor's reported that the global default rate for corporate speculative-grade bonds fell to an eight-year low of 1.40 percent at the end of November.

Ahead of the traditional holiday slowdown, about $7.7 billion in new high-yield deals is being priced over a one-week span, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Journal cited a number of reasons for the bulging calendar, including relatively strong market conditions, increased investor appetite, and jockeying among investment banks to be on the top of the league tables for underwriters. And earlier this week, Standard & Poor’s reported that the global default rate for corporate speculative-grade bonds fell to an eight-year low of 1.40 percent at the end of November.

A big chunk of the $7.7 billion will be a $2.8 billion bond issue that is part of the financing for the leveraged buyout of Hertz Corp. from Ford Motor Co., the Journal reported.

Some of the new paper is for relatively low-rated issues, even for junk bonds. On Thursday, for example, triple-C-rated wireless-services company Cleveland Unlimited priced $150 million of five-year notes, according to the Journal.

Two other low-rated issues are expected to be priced soon: a $200 million offering from Skilled Healthcare Group Inc., an operator of long-term care facilities rated Caa1 by Moody’s Investors Service and triple-C-plus by Standard & Poor’s, and a $400 million offering by Spansion, rated Caa1 by Moody’s and single-B by S&P. Spansion, the flash memory chip unit of Advanced Micro Devices Inc., reportedly plans to price its initial public offering concurrent with the bond offering.

Most of this year’s remaining deals are in the single-B range according to both ratings companies, the paper added.

Meanwhile, seven investment-grade corporate bond deals totaling $3.6 billion appeared on Thursday’s calendar, a day after $3.1 billion of new issuance. The most prominent was American Express Credit Corp.’s $2 billion floating-rate deal. The offering came a week after the company sold $1.5 billion of floating-rate and fixed-rate debt, according to the newspaper.

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