This is S&P Capital IQ’s monthly loan market update. In this post, we concentrate on the trends at work in the European leveraged loan market during 2014 so far, including an increase in M&A financing and some signs of heating in the market. We’ll also touch on the question of whether some slowdown is to be expected.
Out of the €45 billion of leveraged loan issuance so far this year, M&A-related deals contributed €25 billion, more than double what was raised in the first half of last year. This total was boosted by some jumbo corporate M&A deals, most recently the cross-border financing for Jacobs Douwe Egberts. Among sponsor-backed buyouts, LCD tracked an increase in the number of asset sales by corporates and families, bringing some welcome debut borrowers to the loan market.
Institutional investors continued to show strong appetite for leveraged loans during the second-quarter, and heavy repayments on existing loans spurred them on. In fact repayments reached a record quarterly high of €16.6 billion, based on the S&P European Leveraged Loan Index, as the chart shows.
Adding to institutional demand, there was lively issuance of new-generation CLOs, particularly during June, including some new managers entering the 2.0 market, and sources say the pipeline for further CLO issuance in the second half of the year looks healthy.
Through much of the year so far, there has been relatively little complaint from buyside firms about leverage multiples, and indeed first-lien leverage is pretty much flat on last year at around 3.7 times EBITDA. But second-lien tranches are appearing more frequently, and this helped drive total leverage a little higher, to 4.9x. Some arrangers argue leverage is unlikely to spiral up and up because this would result in deals coming to market with low single-B ratings, these often being hard to shift in syndication.
Instead, the market is showing its aggression in other ways – particularly in the use of covenant-lite loans. €10 billion of cov-lite paper – a record – has been raised this year, meaning that roughly one in three euros sold to fund managers had no maintenance covenants. The ELLI Index now includes a 13% cov-lite portion, the highest in its history – although a long long way behind the U.S., where the trend started.
However, from the point of view of yields, Europe looks less aggressive than it did earlier in the year as this chart suggests. Behind the scenes, yields on domestic European deals were flat from the first quarter to the second. But in line with the weaker technical picture in the U.S. market, cross-border yields widened in recent months, dragging the average out too.
Looking ahead, some kind of summer slowdown is likely, but arrangers say they are pitching on some aggressively structured deals and will be looking out for signs of pushback among investors if terms get too heated.
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