Lenders quiet on Yell support

For Yell, the publisher of Britain’s Yellow Pages directories, there is a world of difference between 90 and 95 percent.

The lower figure is the amount of lenders backing its debt financing plan, the higher figure is the amount it needs. If it falls short of its target this evening, the company may need to go to the court to push through a deal.

(News story here.)

The proposals are vital to the heavily indebted company’s short-term future, allowing it to rejig its capital structure and tap equity investors for up to 500 million pounds.

However, the size of the company’s lender group – 300 banks and funds – is working against it. Trying to get all the lenders signed up to the debt deal has been as difficult as herding cats, bankers say.

Going to the courts for approval can be lengthy and expensive, lawyers say. For Yell, a court case may mean they will miss tapping the equity markets before the end of the year. This will disappoint, as the equity markets have backed a range of weak companies in recent weeks, such as HeidelbergCement and Ladbrokes.

Santa for automakers, Grinch for taxpayers?

grinchA company in the U.S. auto industry fails — and the government steps in as savior. Yet again. That’s right. Santa visits the automakers this year while the Grinch steals taxpayers’ Christmas.

The Bush administration is buying $5 billion in equity in GMAC – the finance arm owned by GM and Cerberus Capital Management. The Treasury has also offered a new $1 billion loan to GM so the automaker could participate in a rights offering at GMAC.

Yes, this in addition to the recent $17.4 billion emergency loan to save GM and Chrysler from bankruptcy.  In fact, the government already helped GMAC last week, when the Federal Reserve approved the finance company’s application to become a bank-holding company.

Money for Nothing

ubs.jpgUBS said it made a huge loan to Blackrock so that the U.S. asset manager could buy $15 billion of distressed assets from the Swiss bank, easing the strain on UBS’s balance sheet, but not freeing it from the risk. This must have been a tough one for UBS’s credit department to swallow. Citigroup took a similar tack to offload subprime assets. UBS said it had provided 75 percent of the funding used by Blackrock to buy the portfolio. Blackrock raised $3.75 billion in equity from investors to pay for the rest of the package, UBS said. UBS’s stock was down about 4 percent, but traders said that was because of concerns the bank may have to increase the size of its rights issue.

Time Warner and Time Warner Cable said their boards agreed to split the companies, giving Time Warner $9.25 billion from a special dividend that it will use towards paying down debt. As part of the deal, Time Warner’s stake in the cable operator rises to 85.2 percent from 84 percent. The Wall Street Journal says Time Warner will slash its $34.6 billion debt load, by two-thirds. Time Warner Cable now has a more hefty debt load, borrowing to pay the dividend.

Dutch office supplier Corporate Express is said to be bolstering its defenses against a hostile Staples bid with a deal to buy French rival Lyreco for 1.4 billion euros ($2.2 billion) that the companies say would make it the biggest office supplier in Europe, but is spooking investors. Corporate Express shares fell almost 9 percent. Lyreco says the combined company would better weather weaker economic conditions and demand. “Volume and size helps in this business,” he told reporters. Staples formally launched its 1.5 billion euro unsolicited bid for Corporate Express on Monday, which the company rejected as too low.