Preliminary figures for the year's first half show 929 straight debt issues totaling more than $146 billion, a 43% increase over the same period last year, Securities Data Co./Bond Buyer reported Friday.

"The Federal Reserve followed President Bush's wishes and maintained lower interest rates throughout the first half of 1992," says a release from the financial information services firm based in Newark, N.J.

"As a result, corporate debt issuance continued to boom through the first six months," the release says. The firm's figures are for straight corporate debt, including agency issues but excluding mortgage and asset-backed issues.

Merrill Lynch & Co. retained its lead in debt underwriting, capturing a 26% market share with 243 issues totaling $38 billion. Goldman, Sachs & Co. stayed in second place with $23.1 billion, and Lehman Brothers finished third with $22.9 billion.

More than 25% of the new debt was issued to refinance existing debt, up from 15% in the first half of last year.

And, for now at least, the junk bond could be called "comeback security of the year," Securities Data said. The first half of 1992 saw a record $18.8 billion raised through those issues, smashing the previous record of $16.7 billion set in the second half of 1986, Securities Data said.

Merrill again placed first, with Goldman Sachs second, and Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corp. finishing third.

Securities Data plans to release final numbers tomorrow.

In other news Friday, E-II Holdings Inc. said three of its 13.05% subordinated debentures holders filed an involuntary Chapter 11 petition against the company late Thursday.

According to that filing, those holders own about $35 million of the roughly $698 million principal amount of the outstanding debentures, a company release says.

The filing will not, however, affect the company's reorganization plan unveiled Thursday or the operations of its independent operating subsidiaries, E-II Holdings said. Those subsidiaries include Samsonite Corp., Culligan International Co., and McGregor Corp., the release says.

E-II Holdings plans to file a voluntary Chapter 11 petition and a reorganization plan in about 30 days. The operating subsidiaries will not file for Chapter 11, and the E-II Holdings filing will have no impact on their operations, the release said.

In secondary trading Friday, high-grade bond prices finished a quiet day unchanged to slightly higher. In high-yield, bonds of Southland Corp. showed some gains while the rest of the market finished quiet and unchanged.

New Issues

Textron Inc. issued $200 million of 8.75% debentures due 2022. Noncallable for 10 years, the debentures were priced at 99.389 to yield 8.808%, or 103 basis points over comparable Treasuries. Moody's Investors Service rates the offering A3, while Standard & Poor's Corp. rates it BBB. Morgan Stanley & Co. lead managed the offering.

Mediq/PRN issued $100 million of 11.125% senior secured notes due 1999 at par. The notes are callable after five years at 103.5. Moody's rates the offering B1, while Standard & Poor's rates it B-plus. Dillon, Read & Co. managed the offering.

Late Thursday, Ultramar Corp. issued $175 million of 8.250% guaranteed notes due 1999. The noncallable notes were priced at 99.893 to yield 8.27%, or 155 basis points over comparable Treasuries. Moody's rates the offering Baa3, while Standard & Poor's rates it BBB. Goldman Sachs lead managed the offering.

Also Thursday, Ultramar Credit Corp. issued $275 million of 8.625% guaranteed notes due 2002. The noncallable notes were priced at 99.543 to yield 8.694% or 155 basis points over comparable Treasuries. Moody's rates the offering Baa3, while Standard & Poor's rates it BBB. Goldman Sachs lead managed the offering.

On Friday, Ultramar Corp. announced pricing of its global initial public offering of 33 million shares of common stock at $15 a share.

Ultramar Corp. will use the stock offering's net proceeds to buy the capital stock of Ultramar Inc. and Canadian Ultramar Ltd. from subsidiaries of LASMO Plc., an Ultramar Corp. release says. It will use $400 million of the note issues' net proceeds to repay intercompany indebtedness of Ultramar Inc. and Canadian Ultramar owed to LASMO and its subsidiaries, the release says.

Friday's Ratings

Standard & Poor's has given a BBB rating to Carnival Cruise Lines Inc.'s $100 million of convertible subordinated notes due 1997, a release issued by the rating agency says.

Carnival will use the issue to repay a portion of a bridge loan incurred in connection with the company's redemption of its zero coupon notes, the Standard & Poor's release says.

"Carnival Cruise Lines' rating reflects its strong cruise segment business position and good operating performance despite increased competition and capacity, and a weak economy," the release says.

Standard & Poor's has downgraded Boise Cascade Corp.'s senior debt rating to BBB-minus from BBB. The agency also lowered the company's subordinated debt and preferred stock rates to BB-plus from BBB-minus and has removed them from CreditWatch, where they were placed with negative implications on May 6. About $2 billion of debt is outstanding.

Standard & Poor's has also lowered Boise's commercial paper rating to A-3 from A-2 and has removed it from CreditWatch, where it was placed for a possible downgrade also on May 6.

"The action reflects this forest products and paper manufacturer's very weak operating performance in the current cyclical downturn, and the expectation that through the economic cycle, cash flow protection will be weaker than expected," Standard & Poor's release says. "Although S&P expects earnings to improve from current severely depressed levels, the speed and magnitude of the rebound is in question given overcapacity in key grades, and the gradual subdued nature of the recovery."

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