WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - First Union Capital Markets Group recently closed a $34 million private placement for Todhunter International Inc., a distiller and bottler of beverage products based here.

The unit of First Union Corp. placed senior unsecured notes that will replace short-term bank debt used to finance recent acquisitions.

The transaction was oversubscribed, and Todhunter opted to take $4 million above the original offering of $30 million.

The notes mature in 2004 and bear a coupon of 8.095%.

Like other banks that enter this niche, First Union promotes private placement as a service that gives its customers a competitive advantage.

The capital markets group assured its investors that the unrated Todhunter, with which the bank has a 20-year relationship, was the equivalent of an investment-grade company. That assurance lowered Todhunter's costs.

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