After weeks of nail biting, Chemical Bank pulled off a victory last week in the syndication of a $10 billion credit line for International Business Machines Corp.

As reported, the credit was fully underwritten early this month by Chemical and 17 co-agents.

By late Wednesday, just before the long holiday weekend. Chemical had raised over $6 billion in commitments from banks in the general syndicate.

Underwriting Exposures Cut

The outcome means that the co-agents, most of whom committed $500 million apiece, will see their underwriting exposures cut roughly in half, to levels well within their comfort zones. sources said.

For a time, it looked as if that might not be the case.

As agent, Chemical committed $1.15 billion. Among the domestic banks that committed $500 million were Bank of America, Chase Manhattan Bank, Morgan Guaranty Trust Co., and PNC Bank.

In winning the mandate to lead the credit, Chemical said it could raise $5 billion to $6 billion in the loan market, so last week's outcome gave Chemical room to claim that it was true to its word.

At the same time, though, Chemical's credibility in the market was somewhat tarnished, because the terms on which it won the mandate were changed midcourse in the syndication process.

At a bank meeting in early November to kick off the general syndication. IBM officials announced that up-front fees would be doubled for banks that committed by Nov. 24.

That left Chemical vulnerable to charges from competing banks that it had misread the market, and mispriced the deal.

IBM said it raised the fees in order to insure a quick syndication of the credit.

But it's doubtful that the company would have done so had the credit drawn a more enthusiastic response at the outset from prospective co-agents.

Forced to Scramble

Several major domestic banks -- Bankers Trust, Citibank, and NationsBank -- turned the deal down, as did some big foreign banks, including Barclays Bank of Great Britain, Deutsche Bank, and Union Bank of Switzerland.

After the underwriting group was assembled, Chemical put on a full-court press to lure banks into the general syndicate. strongly encouraging a number of them to make big commitments, several sources said.

ABN Amro Bank, the big Dutch lender, committed $500 million.

But in the days leading up to last Wednesday's deadline. some were viewing Chemical's aggressive marketing drive as a sign that the syndication effort wasn't going well.

Fearing that was the case, at least one bank had been reluctant to commit to the amount Chemical was seeking.

As word of the syndication's success spread through the market Wednesday, such fears vanished.

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