S&P: Leveraged Loan Recoveries Have Dipped While High Yield Increases

Since 2010, post-default recoveries for U.S. bank debt have often been below their long-term averages, even as bonds have experienced elevated recoveries. Financing conditions have been favorable to highly leveraged companies, with investor demand for leveraged loans supporting growing issuance, tightening spreads, and debt structures with smaller debt cushions and fewer covenant protections.

These favorable conditions have helped support bond recoveries in recent years, as has the prevalence of distressed exchanges, which have tended to benefit the recoveries of bonds rather than loans. These factors could contribute to shrinking recoveries once default rates rise.

In short:

  • Average recovery rates for bank debt (which includes term loans and revolvers) have fallen by two percentage points since 2010, to 72%, as declining recovery rates for second-lien term loans have weighed on term loans overall.
  • In contrast, bonds and notes have experienced above-average recoveries of 51% over the same period as the prevalence of distressed exchanges has supported bond recoveries.
  • The long-term discounted average recovery for bank debt is 73.9%, while bonds and notes have recovered 39.2%, on average.
  • For first-lien term loans, shrinking debt cushions, an increase in covenant-lite, and rising leverage are likely hampering recoveries, and this trend could become more pronounced for recoveries of senior and subordinated debt when the cycle turns.

This analysis is courtesy LCD’s colleagues at S&P Global Fixed Income Research, Diane VazzaNick W. Kraemer, and Evan M. Gunter. The complete analysis is available here.

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