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February's Flurry Of Issuance Continues For High-Grade Corporates

By Patrick McGee Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- February issuance is continuing at a rapid clip Monday with at least five high-grade borrowers taking advantage of ultra-low borrowing rates in the U.S. credit markets. Monday's calendar includes a three-part offering from Aristotle Holding Inc., two deals from companies in Brazil, a $700 million offering from Deutsche Bank (DB) and a $300 million sale from Kimberly-Clark Corp. (KMB). The variety of issuance follows a massive start to February. In the first three days of the month last week, $20.2 billion of investment-grade bonds were placed with investors, which is roughly one-third the total for all of February 2011, according to Dealogic. The Federal Reserve's policy of keeping interest rates low through 2014 has broadened appetite for higher-yielding paper, and investors have been mopping up riskier assets based on encouraging growth data in the U.S. and less burdensome headlines from Europe. Those dynamics helped borrowers achieve record-low interest rates last week at the three-, five-, 10-, and 30-year maturities. McDonald's Corp. (MCD), for instance, sold 30-year bonds bearing an interest rate of 3.70% -- the first-ever 30-year sale of dollar-denominated debt selling at less than 4%. The market's tone is marginally weaker Monday on news that Greek negotiators have so far failed to agree on the specifics of austerity measures, which are necessary for the country to receive a second bailout package worth EUR130 billion ($170.6 billion). Fitch Ratings said it expects Greece "to undertake an orderly debt restructuring, which would ensure that a payment system is in place," but added that a disorderly default "cannot be wholly discounted and would yield a more detrimental outcome for Greek structured finance deals." However, Markit's CDX North America Investment Grade Index, a measure of health in the U.S. corporate market, recovered from marginal deterioration in the morning and is now back to where it closed Friday, the best level since July. Aristotle, a unit of pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts Inc. (ESRX), is marketing a three-part private-placement featuring three-, five- and 10-year bonds. A size hasn't been determined yet, but in November the company issued a four-part, $4.1 billion bond deal. Proceeds are to help fund the acquisition of Medco Health Solutions Inc. (MHS), as reported July 21. Brasil Telecom SA (BTMC, BRTO4.BR), a subsidiary of Oi, is marketing a benchmark-sized private-placement of 10-year notes. A size hasn't been determined but revised pricing guidance suggests the bonds will offer investors around 5.85% -- down from earlier guidance of 6%. Sao Paulo bank Banco Santander Brasil (BSBR, SANB4.BR) is offering a benchmark-sized private-placement sale of five-year notes. Early guidance suggests the notes will offer investors 415 basis points over the five-year Treasury rate. The $700 million Deutsche Bank offering is a reopening of, or an addition to, a $1.3 billion issue of 3.25% notes due Jan. 11, 2016. Moody's Analytics said Friday the looming prospect of a disorderly default in Greece and increased pressure on Portugal will be crucial in determining whether rising issuance trends can hold up. "Should the markets come through this period relatively unscathed, then the reduction in systemic risk would bode well for higher levels of origination," Moody's said. -By Patrick McGee, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2382;

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