Blue Chips Raising Funds Amid a Covid Bankruptcy Wave

Credit investors seem eager to snatch up bonds in the primary markets on the heels of last week’s big fund inflows even as distressed companies continue to file for bankruptcy.

Blue-chip companies may raise as much as $35 billion in new debt in the next five days, in line with last week’s volume, according to an informal poll of primary dealers. The syndicate desks have increased their August supply projections to as much as $75 billion from as low as $50 billion at the end of July as companies might borrow more to lock in record-low borrowing costs.

Investment-grade corporations havesold about $1.28 trillion of U.S. bonds in 2020, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, a record for this point in any year.

“We might see more supply than anticipated but certainly less than the first half of the year,” said Josh Lohmeier, head of U.S. investment grade at Aviva Investors, which oversees about $438 billion in assets. “We might start to see more issuance explicitly for companies wanting to restructure their maturity schedule.”

Risk premiums on high-grade corporate bonds have narrowed substantially since the end of June, by around 0.23 percentage point, and are at their lowest level since early March, according to Bloomberg Barclays index data. Barclays Plc isrecommending investors look at hedging investment-grade corporate bonds now, to protect against looming risks and high valuations.

The extent of further spread tightening “appears increasingly limited” amid concerns of a second wave of virus infections and investors will have to assume greater credit risk in the BBB tier — the lowest rung of the grade — for more attractive returns, Leslie Falconio, senior fixed-income strategist at UBS Global Wealth Management, wrote in a note last week. Falconio also favors high-grade bonds maturing within 10 years.

Read more: U.S. Corporate Bond Sales Extend Record Pace as Cash Pours In

Issuance Surge

In the leveraged finance market, Windstream Holdings Inc.’s$2.15 billion debt sale will likely get the week started with pricing slated for as early as Monday.

The offering is split between $1.4 billion of eight-year first-lien notes that are being marketed in the 8.25% area and a $750 million seven-year term loan offered at a spread of 6.25 percentage points over the London interbank offered rate and a discounted price of 96 cents on the dollar.

Refinancing activity is expected to drive more high-yield supply after the second-busiest week of the year for issuance, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Risky borrowers are refinancing at historically low rates with new bond sales, helped by some of the biggest inflows on record into retail funds that buy junk bonds.

Read more: Flood of funds allows riskier lenders to lock in cheap rates

Activity has picked up in leveraged loans as well with prices hitting afive-month high and a$70 million inflow into funds, the first in about two months.

At least 10 deals for about $9.5 billion are due this week, including a$2.4 billion term loan to finance the acquisition of a DXC Technology Co. unit by Veritas and a$1.95 billion loan financing the buyout of software company LogMeIn Inc.

On Monday.Asplundh Tree Expert also kicks off marketing for a$2 billion loan that will fund a dividend, the third such deal of its kind since July 16.

Upcoming in Distressed

Cengage Learning Inc., the online education platform that terminated plans to merge with competitor McGraw Hill, reports earnings this week and plans a call Thursday morning. Retailer J. Jill, meanwhile, extended its existing forbearance agreements until the same day.

Brooks Brothers Group Inc. has a sale hearing on Aug. 14 in which the preppy clothing retailer may announce a final buyer for its assets. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July.

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— With assistance by Katherine Doherty, Gowri Gurumurthy, Lara Wieczezynski, Natalie Harrison, and Brian W Smith

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