There hasn't been a lot of activity in new corporate bond issues for several weeks now. Last week wasn't a barn burner, with only $24 billion in new issues, but there were some interesting stories.
There's a big new buyer in the market for Halliburton (NYSE:HAL) stock. Oil field service company Halliburton itself has weighed in on the stock-versus-bonds question by selling $3 billion of new paper spread over three-, five-, 10-, and 30-year issues. The money will be used to buy back Halliburton stock.
It must have been credit-deal days for companies in the oil and gas business. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (UNKNOWN:KMP.DL) pumped out 5.5-, 10.5-, and 30-year paper totaling $1.75 billion. The money will be used to pay down some commercial paper and help pay for Kinder Morgan's acquisition of Copano.
Celgene (NASDAQ:CELG) tapped the credit market for $1.5 billion split between five-, 10-, and 30-year notes. In a creative twist on the famously uninformative "general corporate purposes," Celgene listed a full menu of possible uses for the money. According to the company's press release, uses for the money include "further development of Celgene's clinical and pre-clinical programs, capital expenditures, general corporate development activities, meeting working capital needs, share repurchases of Celgene's common stock and repayment of some or all of Celgene's outstanding commercial paper."
Health care debt was also popular last week. WellPoint (NYSE:ANTM) issued five- and 30-year paper totaling $1.25 billion. Most of the money is being used to finance a tender offer for $600 million of outstanding debt. The company estimates the cost of buying back the outstanding debt after tender premiums and accrued and unpaid interest will be about $730 million. The rest of the new money will be used for "general corporate purposes, including repurchases of other outstanding indebtedness."
In a high-yield deal, Dana Holdings (NYSE:DAN) torqued up its offering from the planned $600 million to $750 million split between eight- and 10-year notes priced at 5.375% and 6%, respectively. About $470 million is being used to repurchase all of its outstanding "Series A" 4% preferred. The rest of the money will go toward share repurchases and general corporate purposes. At first glance, it doesn't seem logical to borrow at 5% and 6% to take down 4% preferred stock. However, the preferred is convertible at well below the current share price, it entitles the preferred holders to three seats on the board of directors, and it restricts Dana's ability to issue debt. So, even though the buyback dings Dana's cash flow, it takes share dilution and some operating restrictions out of the picture.
I'll be watching to see whether last week was a one-time boost or the appetite for buybacks, refinancing, and acquisitions is returning after drying up as rates went up over the past few months. Even with the run-up, rates are still well below historical averages, and they set a pretty low bar for deals to make or save money.