DealZone

Keeping score: U.S. bonds, European convertibles, Chinese IPOs

From this week’s Thomson Reuters Investment Banking Scorecard:

· US CORPORATE DEBT TOPS $20 BILLION, BREAKS RECORD

For the second consecutive week, the volume of corporate investment grade debt in the US market topped the $20 billion mark, bolstered by benchmark names in the energy & power and financial sectors.   Shell International Finance raised $5 billion via Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank, while Canada’s Cenovus Energy raised $3.5 billion this week.

Investment grade debt activity from non-financial issuers totals $372.3 billion for year-to-date 2009, already besting the previous all-time record for annual non-financial activity set in 2001 when $360.5 billion in new corporate issues were brought to market.

· EUROPEAN CONVERTIBLE BONDS UP 50%
While global convertible bond activity is down 46% over 2008, the market for convertible bonds in Europe has picked up dramatically, with $24.1 billion in new convertible offerings – a 50% year-over-year increase.  Issuers in the materials, financial and industrial sectors account for nearly 60% of this year’s volume in Europe.  Deals from Anglo American, Arcelor Mittal and Alcatel Lucent top the list of convertible offerings this year.

Morgan Stanley leads the year-to-date European convertible bond league table with $4.6 billion or 19.2% of overall activity from 17 new issues this year.  BNP Paribas and Calyon round out the top three underwriters.

· CHINESE IPOs UP 7% OVER 2008

With two multi-billion dollar initial public offerings this week, Chinese IPO activity totals $17.9 billion for year-to-date 2009, a 7% increase over last year at this time and one of the few markets to see gains over 2008.  China Metallurgical Construction Corp raised $2.4 billion in the second largest Chinese IPO this year, while China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) raised $1.1 billion on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

from Commentaries:

Investors ignore ratings at their peril

    Rexam is delivering a nasty surprise to its shareholders, but the logic of its proposed rights issue is hard to fault.
    If trading turns out to be as bad as the board expects, then the penalty payments for refinancing its existing debt will far outweigh the cost and dilution of the issue.
    Broker Oriel Securities reckons the cost to Rexam if it loses its investment grade rating will be an extra 8 to 12 million pounds a year in interest payments.
    Businesses everywhere are rediscovering the joys of equity, as the way to stave off the dreaded downgrade. So far this year, shareholders have put up $119 billion, according to Thomson Reuters data, with $28 billion more due.
    Even cash-rich carmaker Volkswagen is reported to be considering issuing shares to bolster cash reserves and pre-empt any ratings downgrade relating to its merger with Porsche. Spanish utility Iberdrola and French construction groups Lafarge and Saint Gobain all took similar steps to bolster their ratings.
    Unfortunately, credit ratings agencies are so jumpy about regulators and the risks of legal action by investors that companies can't always bank on such moves working.
    Saint Gobain launched a rights issue, but still S&P cut it to BBB from BBB+. Lafarge did worse. Fitch not only cut its rating to BBB-, it added a "negative outlook".
    One reason ratings have increased in importance is that as banks have turned off the taps, companies have turned to the bond markets, allowing the agencies like Moody's Corp and McGraw-Hill's S&P to cash in.
    Experience has taught them caution, however, and the number of issues downgraded from investment grade to junk is on the rise. The threat of this -- with the higher cost of borrowing and reduced market access it brings -- is a powerful incentive to go to the shareholders. S&P has identified 75 issuers -- with $255 billion of debt -- in danger of losing their coveted investment grade.
    The unhappy experience of Rexam shareholders is likely to repeated many times as the debt crisis unwinds, but at least it's better than losing control of the business to its lenders.