While European leveraged loan players have been stunned by Brexit, the U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union on Thursday, there is a sense of stoic pragmatism that the market will remain relatively stable over the coming few months. For the moment though, participants have spent the morning trying to get some clarity amid turbulence in wider markets.
“This is not a great day to be able to take a balanced perspective,” said one banker. “We need to take at least the weekend to see the wider issues, but it’s too early yet.”
Although equity markets have plunged this morning — and sterling has dipped to its lowest level against the dollar in more than 30 years — in the loan secondary market bids are off only 1.5–3 points, though sources note the full impact of the referendum result has not yet been felt here.
“There are still names out there in the secondary market trading at par, and there are still buyers out there buying,” said one banker. “At the moment this is an FX story, but it’s not yet a loan market story — that won’t emerge for the next few weeks.”
Others agree that the loan market will hold its nerve in the coming few weeks, but that more time will be needed to get a full view of the prospects for new issuance and investor appetite. “We will find stability, it’s just a question of when,” said a senior banker in London. “Deals will get done. There’s not a huge market dislocation, we just have to take this day by day.”
In the immediate future though, a raft of potential opportunistic transactions that had been lined up to be launched last week has already been shelved. A number of sponsors were said to have been waiting until after the voting results to officially sign up for and mandate opportunistic deals, but arrangers say those deals that had been prepared are being put back into cold storage.
“We discussed an opportunistic refinancing yesterday,” said one banker. “That’s off the table, of course, as it was subject to an acceptable [Remain] outcome to the referendum. There were a lot of opportunistic issuers that wanted to benefit from the momentum in the market post-referendum. They were anticipating that Monday would be a very bullish day, and would be the right time to tap the market.”
But while opportunistic transactions are off the table, market participants are stoic, and remain hopeful that the European leveraged loan market will remain stable in the longer term. “There won’t be any dividend recaps launched today, but the market will recover,” said one investor in London. “People will still want yielding assets.”
Another fund manager agrees: “In the cold light of day, it is a long runway to anything actually happening. The uncertainty doesn’t help, but I don’t see a vast impact on earnings profiles.”
Others sources agree that in the long term, the loan market remains a stable option for investors and issuers, and that new-money transactions that are well-structured and positively priced will continue to get traction. In recent weeks, some arrangers are understood to have negotiated slightly better terms on their economic flex to help address the risk of a Leave vote, but it’s too early to know whether there will be a marked change in clearing yields.
Market participants are optimistic that new deals will soon come to the market to test appetite, although sources note that smaller transactions that rely on European commercial bank support will likely be easier territory than those that rely on institutional demand, given the potential distraction of relative-value plays elsewhere.
“The big picture will be that the wider markets are going to be very volatile,” said one account manager. “But at a micro level, the question is simply whether you want to lend to a company or not. There will be no real impact on European-only businesses.”
With only €1.75 billion of volume (of which €950 million is institutional debt) in the forward calendar, according to LCD, an offering of S&P Global Market Intelligence, there are few deals that have been pencilled in to face the new market paradigm in the coming few weeks.
The two largest deals in the pipeline are the financing backing the acquisition of Bilfinger B&F by EQT, and the senior and second-lien financing package to support Partners Group’s takeover of Foncia. The latter provides services for the residential real-estate market and is regarded as a strongly French prospect, while Bilfinger Building and Facility operates in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, but also has operations in the U.K.
Following these deals, the auctions now out in the market could be more impacted by the Brexit vote, if sponsors become uncertain over valuations or financing costs, leading to deadlines being extended. “There are auctions coming through with deadlines in the next couple of weeks,” said one banker. “Will we want to hold people to that? I expect the market to be more pragmatic than that.” — Nina Flitman
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This story first appeared on www.lcdcomps.com, LCD’s subscription site offering complete news, analysis and data covering the global leveraged loan and high yield bond markets. You can learn more about LCD here.