Bankers are adding provisions to an $8 billion loan to Chrysler Financial Corp. that could work against financier Kirk Kerkorian's buyout bid for Chrysler Corp.
By Wednesday, the refinancing, led by Chemical Banking Corp., had almost $7 billion in commitments, with little more than half of Chrysler's group of over 80 banks reporting.
Bankers' eagerness to participate in the refinancing for the Chrysler unit - and the cozy relationship between Chrysler and its banks - casts doubt on Mr. Kerkorian's ability to raise the $12 billion loan he would need to complete his hostile $22.8 billion deal.
What's more, the bankers are expected to add provisions to the loan agreement to protect their financial interests in the event that Mr. Kerkorian succeeds in his bid to buy the Highland Park, Mich., automaker.
One probable approach, bankers said, would be a covenant that triggers a default if a company's debt exceeds a preset level or if its debt rating falls.
Such a covenant would weigh against a leveraged takeover like the one proposed by Mr. Kerkorian's Tracinda Corp., but it would not affect a cash deal.
Chemical declined to comment on the loan.
Market sources said that banks' commitments to the deal prior to learning exactly what form the takeover protection might take reflected the strength and commitment of Chrysler's bank group.
Protective of their multibillion-dollar relationship with Chrysler, banks have been reluctant to admit even talking to Mr. Kerkorian.
Bankers also said that Chrysler's readiness to alter the loan at the behest of its bank group showed its commitment to maintain a strong working relationship with its banks.
Even though bankers could technically finance a deal for Tracinda, many spoke of the abject fear of putting their relationship with Chrysler at risk.
Chrysler management has treated Mr. Kerkorian's proposal as a hostile offer, suggesting that if a bank defected it would be a one-way ticket out of the bank group.
While bankers touted the importance of loyalty and seemed satisfied with the loan they have in hand, they did point to the difficulty they face if Mr. Kerkorian succeeds.
If Mr. Kerkorian were able to put together a bank group, the banks that had remained loyal to Chrysler would not be able to lead the deal.
Ironically, the protection banks seek in the event of a take-over reflects their concern that Mr. Kerkorian might succeed - with the help of banks.
At the same time, most bankers had no idea who would bring the deal to market.
"If Tracinda structures a loan right, it could be a blowout," said a syndicated lender who held a minority opinion.
"With this market as dead as it is, everyone has become really squeamish about their budget," the lender continued. "There are very few things you can't get done in this market."
The majority view, however, was that Mr. Kerkorian would be hard pressed to supplant Chrysler's lenders.
"This deal is just not going to happen," said one skeptic.