Goldman Sachs & Co. has won the mandate to lead a long-awaited $500 million vendor financing package for Lucent Technologies Inc.
The investment bank will launch general syndication Wednesday in Kansas City, Mo., of a loan that supports the buildup of hardware for a highly touted joint venture, Sprint Spectrum.
The loan, which was fully underwritten by Goldman, constitutes the funded portion of a mammoth $1.8 billion package that Lucent inked last year with the joint venture of Sprint Corp., Cox Communications, Comcast Cable, and Telecommunications Inc.
Bankers said that Chase Manhattan Corp., which led last year's $2 billion loan for Sprint Spectrum, and Goldman waged a pitched battle to lead the deal, which is secured against the receivables of Sprint Spectrum.
Some bankers were surprised that Goldman was able to beat out Chase, the largest loan syndication shop in the country, on this deal, while others said that investment banks have been winning their fare share of business.
"There is a lot of competition out there, and nobody can be complacent," said Bruce Ling, head of syndications for Credit Suisse First Boston.
A successful deal for Lucent bodes well for deferring some of the risk from the remaining portion of the vendor financing, analysts said.
"If they can do $500 million now, they can do more later," said Charles DiSanza, a media analyst at Gerard Klauer Mattison & Co. "There's some interest rate risk to Lucent if rates move up, but this definitely frees up their balance sheet."
Lucent officials said they were confident in their ability to follow through on their financing plans.
The loan matures in nine years and is divided into a $265 million piece that Goldman will sell to banks and a $175 million portion earmarked for institutional investors. Goldman is holding the remaining $60 million.
The deal is priced at the London interbank offered rate plus 287.5 basis points.
Some said Goldman's public declaration of its holdings sent a signal to the market.
"It's going to be increasingly important that investment banks are not perceived as honest brokers," said a loan syndicator, suggesting that investment banks may need to prove that they are not selling down their entire position in a loan.
Market observers said the critical test will be to see how long Goldman holds the loan on its books before distributing it through its active trading desk.
A week before general syndication, the institutional piece of the loan was almost two times oversubscribed, market sources said.
Some attributed this to the slow pace of new bank loans issued during the first quarter.