Big Companies Borrowing Billions

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Last week was a slow one in U.S. corporate bond markets, with little more than $14 billion in new issues, but there were nonetheless some multibillion-dollar borrowers. Here are a few of the highlights.

Pfizer was the week's biggest borrower with $4 billion spread over five issues with maturities ranging from three to 30 years. Pfizer is putting the money toward the redemption of 1.85 billion euros of notes coming due this month, as well as the early redemption of a portion of two notes maturing in February 2014. Pfizer will save somewhere around $90 million per year in debt service, depending on the mix of 2014 notes retired and the premium paid to redeem them.

Northrop Grumman launched $2.85 billion in debt split between five-, 10-, and 30-year tranches. The money is being used for the early redemption of notes maturing in 2014 and 2015. There's only $850 million outstanding between the two issues targeted for early redemption, so there will be plenty of money left for the "debt repayment, share repurchases, pension plan funding, acquisitions and working capital" mentioned in the company's press release.

Agrium funded some seeds for future growth with 10- and 30-year paper totaling $1 billion. According to the company's press release, the money will be used to fund planned capital expenditures. No specifics for the capex were provided.

Ingles Markets rang up $700 million from 10-year, 5.75% high-yield notes. The money will fund a tender offer for all $575 million of its 2017 8.75% notes. At the tender offer price, retiring all the existing debt will cost about $600 million, and the deal will save Ingles about $10 million per year in debt service. Any money left after paying for the tender offer goes "to repay certain other debt, to fund capital expenditures and for general corporate purposes."

Hospitality Properties sold $300 million of 10-year, 4.25% paper to fund the redemption of 7% preferred shares. There are 6.7 million preferred shares at $25 each for total of $167.5 million. The new debt service will cost about $1 million more per year than the preferred dividends, but Hospitality is getting quite a bit of additional cash for "funding hotel renovation or rebranding costs and potential future acquisitions."

Even with interest rates creeping up recently, cheap funding continues to help improve companies' bottom lines. Ingles is a great example of low rates driving costs down. The supermarket chain earned $46 million over the last four quarters. The new note issue and tender offer for the existing paper equates to a nearly 25% increase in earnings if the debt service savings flow to the bottom line. That earns Ingles a place on My Watchlist.

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Russ Krull has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Northrop Grumman. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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