2012 a Record Year for Bond Sales

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The Wall St. Journal reported that the record for annual U.S. corporate bond sales was broken last week, with more than $1.025 trillion in corporate bonds sold so far in 2012. Spirits and wine maker Brown-Forman (NYSE: BF-B  ) helped break the record with its three-part, $750 million deal. In keeping with these times of pulling dividends forward and paying specials, the money will be used to finance a $4 per-share special dividend.

Brown-Forman wasn't the only borrower in the markets last week. Here are a few of the other deals.

AT&T (NYSE: T  ) called Europe for a 1 billion euro, 20-year, 3.55% note deal.As with its dollar issue the week before, AT&T didn't go beyond "general corporate purposes" for the use of proceeds.

Crown Castle (NYSE: CCI  ) rolled out $1.5 billion across five- and 10-year notes to fund a tender offer for higher-rate paper. The deal could save Crown Castle as much as $68 million per year in debt-service expense.

Six Flags (NYSE: SIX  ) sold $800 million in five-year, 5.25% tickets. The company said $350 million of the new money will be used to pay down loans, while the rest will go toward "share repurchases, working capital needs and strategic initiatives." The company also announced its share buyback plan has been increased by $500 million.

Access Midstream Partners (UNKNOWN: ACMP.DL  ) has $1.4 billion flowing into its accounts with a 10-year note issue. The money will be used to finance part of Access' acquisition of Chesapeake Midstream Operating. Access also announced an offering of 16 million units to help fund the acquisition.

Williams Companies (NYSE: WMB  ) joined Access in energy deals and issued $850 million in 10-year paper to finance its purchase of a 50% stake in Access Midstream Partners GP (Access' general partner) and a 25% stake in Access Midstream. Williams is also offering 46.5 million shares to help finance the deal.

Anyone looking for evidence of unintended consequences from government policy doesn't need to look any further than recent bond issues. With record-low interest rates and uncertain tax policy, Fed Chairman Bernanke, President Obama, and congressional leaders couldn't have set a better stage to encourage companies to borrow and pay special dividends, buy back shares, or make acquisitions.

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