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Corporate Bond Volume Tops May Forecasts Despite Volatility

By Patrick McGee Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- Corporate borrowers braved agitated markets Thursday to get financing done before what could be a more volatile market in June. British American Tobacco PLC (BTI) was on track to sell $2 billion in three-parts, Boston Properties Inc. (BXP) issued $1 billion of 10-year bonds and Tampa Electric completed a $300 million sale of 30-year bonds. The deals were brought to market while Treasury yields were in freefall this morning, as reflected by the all-time low on the benchmark 10-year note, at 1.533%. Treasury yields subsequently moved higher prior to ending the session down, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average moved into positive territory, after losing 100 points midmorning, before ending down more than 25 points. The three deals push high-grade issuance to roughly $83.5 billion this month, according to Dealogic, just beating the $80 billion forecasts commonly cited at the start of May. Issuance is expected to drop in June, with syndicate desk estimating $30 billion and $60 billion to get sold. The recent uptick in volume reflects a desire among companies to jump into the market and get financing plans out of the way now, even though broader markets are shunning risk, said Peter Aherne, head of North America Capital Markets and Syndicate at Citigroup. "There's an expectation that conditions could be just as volatile, if not more so, next month," he said. The list of events that could spook markets next month is long: The European Central Bank has a policy meeting June 6, France holds first-round parliamentary elections June 10, the Bank of Japan discusses monetary policy June 14-15 and Greece holds parliamentary elections June 17. Also, Group of 20 leaders will gather during the week of June 18 in Mexico. The Federal Reserve's long-bond buying program, Operation Twist, is scheduled to end in June, and Moody's Investors Service has telegraphed it may soon downgrade a number of global banks. Yet so far, investors have been happy to greet new bond deals with a loving embrace. When Kraft Foods Group Inc. sold $6 billion in a four-part deal Wednesday, it took $23 billion of orders. When United Technologies Corp. (UTX) sold $9.8 billion in a six-part offering last week, it garnered $38 billion of bids. Those two deals, along with Eastman Chemical Co.'s (EMN) $2.4 billion, three-part offering earlier this week, helped push acquisition-related financing this month to a 12-month high of $18.1 billion, Dealogic shows. A rise in such financing is often viewed favorably as a signal of economic expansion, but with two deals accounting for 87% of May's merger-and-acquisition deals, that's a tough conclusion to draw this time. "Monthly volume was flattered by a handful deals that were in the pipeline for a while," said Edward Marrinan at RBS Securities. "I do not believe this month's experience is the start of a new trend of higher M&A and related financing." But the appetite does imply demand for new deals won't let up even if broader conditions are deteriorating. New deals tend to be the most easily traded, and the recent performance in the secondary market from UTX and Kraft has been encouraging to issuers and investors alike. UTX 4.5% coupon, 30-year bonds were the most actively traded bond in Thursday's session, MarketAxess shows. Spreads tightened 0.01 point to 1.46, versus 1.73 when issued. New issues performed well Thursday. The $2 billion BTI deal comprises three-, five, and 10-year bonds, offering respective spreads to Treasurys of 1.15 percentage points, 1.5 points and 1.8 points. The offered spread declined by 0.05 point on each tranche, representing strong demand. The issue, done via B.A.T International Finance, marks the company's first U.S. dollar debt deal since 2008, according to Standard & Poor's LCD. Boston Properties priced its 10-year bond to yield 3.876%, or 2.30 points over Treasurys. Tampa Electric sold its 30-year notes to yield 4.116%, a 1.45-point spread. -By Patrick McGee, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2382; [email protected]

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