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A Big Deal in Corporate Bonds

Last week was a busy one for U.S. dollar-denominated corporate-bond issues. Companies floated more than $36 billion of new borrowing, with just one issuer accounting for more than a third of the total. Borrowers based outside the U.S. were responsible for nearly $11 billion. Here's a rundown on a few of the deals.

The week's biggest borrower by far was Abbott Labs (NYSE: ABT  ) , soon to be spin-off AbbVie, with $14.7 billion spread over six tranches ranging from three- to 30-year maturities. AbbVie will be using the money to "to make a cash distribution to Abbott, to pay related fees and expenses and for general corporate purposes." Abbott will be using that distribution to finance tender offers for outstanding debt.

Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW  ) easily made the billion-dollar club with $2.5 billion split between 10- and 30-year paper. The company is using the money for "repaying or refinancing indebtedness or other obligations as well as for general corporate purposes, which may include funding pension contributions, funding capital expenditures, financing working capital, and pursuing growth initiatives." That sure narrows it down.

Brazilian bank Itau Unibanco (NYSE: ITUB  ) tapped the markets for $1.7 billion of 10-year debt and is using the money to beef up its capital ratio.

E*Trade (Nasdaq: ETFC  ) brokered bids on five- and seven-year high-yield notes totaling $1.3 billion. The proceeds from the new junk will be used to redeem old, higher-coupon junk. The trade should give E*Trade about $50 million in discounts on its yearly debt service cost.

Advertiser Interpublic (NYSE: IPG  ) joined the debt-refinancing game with $800 million of new five- and 10-year notes to fund redemptions of existing debt. The move should save Interpublic about $40 million per year in interest expenses.

South African energy company Sasol (NYSE: SSL  ) dug up $1 billion with a sale of 10-year paper. The new money will be used for "general corporate purposes, including funding capital investments."

Southern Copper (NYSE: SCCO  ) mined 10- and 30-year paper to raise $1.5 billion. The money will go toward general corporate purposes, including capital expenditures.

Refinancing high-rate debt with today's cheap money continues to be a popular use of proceeds for debt deals. High-quality (and some low-quality) borrowers don't seem to be having any trouble raising money, and foreign borrowers continue to travel to the U.S. markets to take advantage of the low rates.

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