Markets: As always, the BDC Reporter – and everyone else – will be keeping an eye on the markets after five weeks of rallying. We’re not yet at the December 3, 2018 level of 2,535 on the Wells Fargo Index which we set last week as a useful target, but have inched closer after the 0.9% increase last week. That left us at 2,519 (2,496 the week before) and almost fully recovered from the December bloodbath. As we’ve discussed at greater length in the BDC Common Stocks Market Recap progress going forward is going to be harder to come by and other forms of non-investment grade debt are already leveling out. On the other hand, if January 2019 looks anything like February 2016 – the last time we had a sudden pull-back out of a seemingly clear blue sky – the price trend will remain upward with only very modest bumps along the way. That rally lasted over a year.
M&A continues to drive activity; LBO to take out P.F. Chang’s credits held by CĪON, FSK
Arrangers continued to peel more M&A loan business off the forward calendar last week, although early 2019 successes, driven by the opening-week rally, appear to be giving way to a slightly more cautious tone. A resurgent high-yield new-issue market is benefiting as a pair of borrowers are carving out secured notes to take pressure off multibillion-dollar loan executions.
M&A drives new debt for names in several portfolios, including recently combined FS KKR Capital
The loan market remained fixated on the primary calendar as $9.4 billion of new loans, all of it M&A- and LBO-related, entered syndication last week. Following the secondary market’s early January rebound, the primary also was off to a solid start last week with a series of oversubscribed transactions, accelerated timing and the return of reverse-flex activity as some new issues started to cement pricing levels well south of the December’s rate spike.
Market: Both BDC common stocks and publicly traded unsecured debt have been in rally mode for three weeks now. For this preview of the week ahead, we will be looking out for any faltering in the blistering pace of the rebound in leveraged debt values. From the lowest point on Christmas Eve to the close on Friday BDC common stocks have moved up 11%. Less spectacularly, BDC Fixed Income has crossed back over par – using the median of the 41 issues we track – from a low of $24.30 in December, when nearly every issue out there had dropped below the $25.00 level. We’ll be focused on whether BDC common stock prices can make their way back – at least – to the late November level before the markets got into full dramatic mode as investors sold everything that was not nailed down, and some that was. Investors climbing that wall of worry have more than the usual number of challenges ahead including the well worn list of the government shutdown; the uncertainty over tariffs; concerns about a slowing economic environment – or worse; and the endless debate about what the Fed will or won’t do. Moreover, having climbed so high and so quickly investors have – metaphorically speaking – that much further to fall. The week ahead will be a useful test of the breadth and thrust of this rally. We take nothing for granted, and assume the next direction could just as easily be down or up. The best BDC investors might hope for in the short run is a modest pause two weeks ahead of earnings season.
Aimbridge LBO to take out unitranche debt held by Bain Capital Specialty Finance, Golub
Download: LFI BDC Portfolio News 1-14-19
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