Chase Manhattan Corp. and BankAmerica Corp. launched two blockbuster defense-industry loans on Friday, providing $12 billion in fresh assets to a market starved for deals.

Banks seemed eager to participate in the two investment-grade loans, which include a $7 billion credit for Raytheon Co. and a $5 billion loan for Hughes Aircraft Co. Several banks committed to the deals as early as Thursday night, lenders said.

"People have known these deals have been in the works for a while, and in this market they do their homework early," one lender said.

Still, some lending experts said the market may find it difficult to digest $12 billion in debt for a single sector. Banks prefer to spread their credit exposure among many industries.

But the loan syndications market has been relatively quiet in 1997, compared to last year's record-setting volume. And $5 billion worth of the new loans are set to mature within a year, limiting the time that banks will have these defense assets on their books.

"Based on the terms and conditions and timing, we think it'll be very well received, there's no doubt about that," said Bruce Ling, managing director and the head of syndications for Credit Suisse First Boston, documentation agent on the Raytheon loan."It's a very receptive time."

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce is serving as documentation agent on the Raytheon transaction.

Lexington, Mass.-based Raytheon will use its new facility to refinance and expand a $3 billion loan and to purchase Texas Instruments' defense electronics business. Arlington, Va.-based Hughes Aircraft, meanwhile, will use its new loan to finance part of its tax-free spinoff from General Motors Corp.

The Hughes loan is contingent on the successful sale of the company to Raytheon. Bankers stressed, however, that the Hughes facility distinct from the Raytheon loan.

"The reason they are being launched on the same day is that everyone knows about the two deals," said a defense lender.

The loan meetings, which were held at the Grand Hyatt in New York, were well attended, bankers said. The transactions are appealing to banks because of the marquee value of both company names and because the consolidating defense industry leaves relatively few options for banks.

"Raytheon is a company in our backyard, and we very much want to support it," said Gary Kearns, a senior vice president who manages large corporate relationships for Fleet Financial Group, Boston. "There are very strong fundamentals in the transactions."

Indeed, Raytheon is expected to rank among the top tier of defense companies after the industry's consolidation is complete.

"If you want to be in the business of lending to defense companies, you have to be in these deals," said another lender.

Nonetheless, banks will not get rich on them. Both deals are priced on a grid in which the fees are directly related to the companies' ratings.

The Raytheon loan is divided into a $3 billion one-year piece and a $4 billion five-year portion, and is priced at the London interbank offered rate plus 30 basis points.

"This will be much more of a relationship play than anything else," said a defense lender. "This will get done at the end of the day."

The Hughes loan, for which Citicorp and J.P. Morgan are documentation agents, is divided into a $2 billion one-year tranche and a $3 billion five-year piece. It is priced at about Libor plus 20 to 30 basis points.

Both companies are expected to refinance about half of their loans in the public markets within a year, bankers said. Another defense giant, Lockheed Martin, employed a similar strategy last year with its $10 billion loan, led by J.P. Morgan, BankAmerica, and Citicorp, supporting its acquisition of Loral Corp.

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