A 3-Speed Bond Issue for GM

A 3-Speed Bond Issue for GM

Last week's $40 billion-plus in new corporate bonds marked the third week in a row for strong borrowing. Here's a summary of some of the deals.

The biggest borrower was BHP Billiton's finance arm with a four-part, $5 billion note issue. The paper ranged from a three-year floating rate note to a 5% 30-year note. For $5 billion, it would be nice if investors got more than "general corporate purposes" for the "use of proceeds" statement.

General Motors motored back into the credit markets with a $4.5 billion note issue split evenly between five-year 3.5%, 10-year 4.875% and 30-year 6.25% tranches. Reuters reported these are the first unsecured bonds GM has issued since its bankruptcy. The money is being used to buy back 9% preferred stock from the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust and 7% notes from the Canadian Auto Workers' Union Health Care Trust. The company expects the interest savings will add $0.11 per share to 2014 earnings. My numbers are a little lower, but within round-off error of that estimate.

Wal-Mart stocked bond dealers' shelves with $1 billion of 1.95% five-year and $750 million of 4.75% 30-year paper. The use of proceeds statement in the SEC filing lists general corporate purposes, which "may include, among other uses, repurchases of our common stock, repayment, refinancing or replacement of maturing debt, additions to working capital, future acquisitions and other capital expenditures." Redeeming maturing debt would be a very good guess from that list since Wal-Mart has four issues totaling $3.25 billion maturing between now and May 2014.

ADT secured $1 billion with an eight-year 6.25% note sale. ADT is using the money "to repay $150 million in borrowings under its revolving credit facility, repurchase outstanding shares of its common stock and for other general corporate purposes, including acquisitions." If I were an ADT shareholder, I'd rather see the company pass on the share repurchase and make moves to strengthen its credit rating.

Arcos Dorados served up $375 million with 10-year 6.625% notes. The money is being used to finance a tender offer for its 7.5% 2019 notes. In addition to offering cash for the existing notes, Arcos Dorados offered to exchange existing notes for the new paper and issued nearly $100 million in additional notes to cover the exchange. The cash offer for the existing paper was an 8.25% premium to par; the exchange offer was either $1,092.50 or $1,062.50 of new notes for each $1,000 of existing paper depending on whether the notes were tendered before an early exchange deadline.

Refinancing higher rate debt still seems to be a popular use for new money and companies are still able to structure deals that save debt service costs. The refinancings, and even share buybacks, can improve cash flow. I'm not sure that's what the Federal reserve is hoping for with its easy-money policy, but that's what's driving most of the deals.

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Russ Krull has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Arcos Dorados. 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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