Comerica Bank on Thursday became the first regional bank in several years to issue debt into the Eurobond market.
The $300 million floating rate, five-year issue, led by Morgan Stanley & Co., is the first portion of a shelf registration that will allow Comerica to sell up to $2 billion of medium-term notes - and the first Eurobond by the Detroit-based bank in more than a decade.
The deal underscores the rising popularity of American bank bonds with European investors, a trend that has created a cheaper market for nondeposit funds.
"American banks have been greatly in vogue because their ratings have improved so much in the last few years," said Ronnie Dick, a managing director at PaineWebber International in London. American banks are one of the few sectors giving investors attractive returns, he said.
The bonds were priced at the London interbank offered rate plus 10 basis points.
"It's fairly clear to us that we hit the European market at an appropriate time, when spreads for this kind of paper have reached some tight levels and investor interest in non-money-center names has peaked," said Ronald D. Marks, a first vice president and head of liability management at Comerica.
"European investors realize that these regional banks are solid, strong companies," said Michael Leit, a bank bond analyst at Prudential Securities. "They appreciate that issuers don't have to be money-centers, they can be regional banks that have good track records. Comerica fits that bill pretty well."
The money-center banks have met with a positive reception in tapping the Eurobond market in the last year.
Eurobonds issued by NationsBank Corp., Bankers Trust New York Corp., BankAmerica Corp., and Citicorp have been readily purchased by investors.
Mr. Marks said Comerica is pleased to expand its investor base. "We're excited about reaching into a new market and being able to issue debt there and interact with investors on an ongoing basis to meet their needs and supply Comerica with funds."
Analysts blamed a recent increase in the price of issuing debt in the United States for encouraging bankers to seek nondeposit funds overseas.
European investors have been getting relatively low returns from European bank bonds.
Mr. Marks said Comerica, in a "reverse inquiry" process, will ask its investors when and how much to issue.
Analysts said other banks that have not been in the market for a while have made inquiries, and that further inaugural issuances could be expected in the next few months.
"Issuing overseas not only broadens a bank's funding base, but it can also be cheaper," said Matt Burnell, a bank bond analyst at Merrill Lynch.