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High-Grade Companies Sell $3.1 Billion, Sentiment Weakens

05/14/2012 | 05:23pm US/Eastern
   By Patrick McGee 

High-grade corporate issuers sold $3.1 billion of new debt Monday despite continued deterioration in sentiment and a broad market selloff.

Kellogg Co. (>> Kellogg Company) led the way with a three-part, $1.45 billion issue aimed at raising funds in connection with its $2.7 billion acquisition of potato chip maker Pringles.

The cereal maker's deal comprised three-, five-, and 10-year maturities offering yields of 1.165%, 1.864%, and 1.774%, respectively, or 0.80, 1.15, and 1.45 percentage points over comparable Treasurys.

The five- and 10-year coupons of 1.75% and 3.125%, respectively, were record lows for the company, according to Standard & Poor's LCD.

Among smaller deals, waste collector Republic Services (>> Republic Services, Inc.) issued $850 million to redeem some 2017 bonds, Cameron International (>> Cameron International Corporation) sold $500 million to acquire a drilling equipment business from TTS Group ASA (TTS.OS), and Westar Energy expanded a prior debt issue by $300 million.

The four deals came on a day when broader sentiment was unraveling for a second session. Markit's CDX North America Investment-Grade Index, a barometer of corporate bond sentiment, worsened by more than 5%, again, to a fresh four-month low, one of the worst back-to-back sessions of 2012.

Individual bonds weakened substantially while safe-haven assets rallied, as reflected by the six-basis-point drop in the 10-year Treasury bond yield. The weakening was led by bank bonds, which are selling off in the fallout of J.P. Morgan (>> JPMorgan Chase & Co.) last Thursday projecting a $2 billion trading loss related to derivatives.

J.P. Morgan's 4.5% 2022 bond widened 8 basis points Monday to 204, among its highest since late February, according to MarketAxess.

Goldman Sachs Group (>> Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.) bonds did worse, as spreads on its 5.75% 2022 bond widened 15 basis points to 347, contributing to a 31-basis-point deterioration month-to-date.

But with corporate bond trading at record low yields last week, the market still proved enticing to borrowers. Syndicate desks are projecting around $20 billion could be issued this week as borrowers take advantage of low yields.

One syndicate manager who was surprised by the number of deals Monday was confident in the morning that demand would be strong.

"The deals have enough concession or enough quality to the name to get done," he said. "The truth is, a lot of investors have money to put to work."

-By Patrick McGee, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2382;

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