With bankers returning to syndication desks after the late-August doldrums, several new credits were announced this week, including a $1.5 billion loan for Beckman Instruments Inc.

Citicorp and Merrill Lynch & Co. were selected to lead the Beckman loan, which backs the acquisition of Coulter Corp. Beckman, based in Fullerton, Calif., is paying $875 million in cash and $175 million in debt, as well as assuming payments of about $100 million that Coulter is making to employees in connection with the acquisition, said a source close to the transaction.

The deal is the latest in a series for the medical instruments industry. Last month Merrill Lynch joined with Chase Manhattan Corp. to win the mandate for a $900 million loan backing Thomas H. Lee Co.'s leveraged buyout of Hampton, N.H.-based Fisher Scientific International.

The Beckman credit is split between a $1 billion, 364-day revolving credit and a $500 million, five-year revolver. Citicorp, which is Beckman's primary lender, will act as administrative agent, with Merrill Lynch, which advised the firm on the Coulter acquisition, as syndication agent.

Pricing information was not available on the loan, which is expected to come to market this month.

Beckman produces and markets instruments and supplies for scientific and medical research and diagnostics.

Separately, Century Telephone Enterprises Inc. selected NationsBank Corp. to lead a $1.6 billion credit backing its acquisition of Pacific Telecom Inc. for $1.5 billion in cash and debt, according to a company statement.

NationsBank is the arranger and syndication agent for the loan. Managing agents are Chase Manhattan Corp., SunTrust Corp., Wachovia Corp., Royal Bank of Canada, and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi.

The loan was underwritten by NationsBank but will not be fully available until the acquisition is completed. The credit is split between a $300 million, five-year revolver and a $1.3 billion, 364-day facility that can be converted to a five-year term loan.

Monroe, La.-based Century provides a range of communications services including local exchange, wireless, long distance, and Internet access in 14 states. Its acquisition of Pacific Telecom is expected to close in the fourth quarter or the first.

NationsBank also closed a $225 million refinancing for Equity Corp. International, one of the largest funeral services companies in the country.

Lufkin, Tex.-based Equity plans to use the loan to fund $110 million in acquisitions through 1998, said W. Cardon Gerner, senior vice president and chief financial officer of the firm.

Six new banks entered the facility, bringing the total to 11. NationsBank has been the firm's primary lender since it led a $60 million syndication for Equity in 1994.

The new loan, which is $125 million more than the old one, is split between a $150 million, five-year revolver and a $75 million, 364-day revolver that defaults to a 13-month term loan with a bullet maturity. Pricing is based on a grid tied to the company's leverage ratio, ranging between 50 basis points and 125 basis points over the London interbank offered rate.

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