As the syndicated loan market wheezes its way through the fourth quarter with no sign of picking up soon, indications are that borrowers deteriorating fortunes could pull the rug out from under some loans that have already been arranged.
One such borrower is Antec Corp., a cable device maker that is understood to have agreed on a $550 million credit facility with Bank of New York Co. The loan would be used to finance Antecs acquisition of an 81% stake in Arris Interactive, a joint venture with Nortel Networks that develops systems to deliver phone and Internet service to residences through cable lines.
Bank of New York has a well-established expertise in financing media and communications companies, and sources said the company has been talking up the financing deal to investors in recent weeks. But now there are questions about the deal, analysts say.
Late last month AT&T Broadband, a unit of AT&T Corp. and one of Antecs biggest customers, said it would cut back on its broadband equipment purchases, a decision that will affect Antecs earnings. Chris Donnelly, a director at Standard & Poors/Portfolio Management Data, suggested that Antecs change of fortune has been so great that Bank of New York could cite material adverse changes as a reason to postpone or change the credits terms.
The deal could fall apart now, Mr. Donnelly said.
Antec, based in Duluth, Ga., did not return phone calls seeking comment. A spokesman for Bank of New York declined to comment for this article.
Analysts said Antecs experience is emblematic of the current state of the syndicated loan market. With three weeks left in 2000, syndicated loan volume for the year through Friday was 0.5% higher than last years total volume of $1.8 trillion. But the fourth quarters volume of deals, at $176 billion as of Friday, was down sharply from last years $265 billion.
At the same time, a slowing economy is putting a crimp on the telecom sectors ability to arrange financing, analysts said.
The harshening climate touches everyone at the edges, said Anton Wahlman, an analyst specializing in the high-speed communications and technology sectors at UBS Warburg.
And whatever the outcome of the current financing negotiations, indications that companies may be rethinking their borrowing plans is already casting a pall over the first-quarter loan market. Antec would have been new business in the first quarter, said Mr. Donnelly.
Antec is expected to update analysts by the middle of this week on how AT&T Broadbands announcement will affect its earnings. The companys stock has fallen 18% since Nov. 24.
Though Mr. Wahlman does not think the slowdown in AT&T orders will ultimately derail Antecs pending acquisition of the Nortel venture, or the financing that will make it happen, its a valid question, he said.
Despite any impact on Antecs earnings this quarter, Mr. Wahlman said he thinks the Nortel joint venture gives a comfort level to the banks.