Issuance in the high-yield market was extremely light last week as investors and underwriters began launching road shows for the new year.
At least $4 billion of new junk bond deals is on the near-term calendar, market participants said.
''This is a very strong start," said Gail Bruhn, a portfolio manager at Aeltus Investment Management Inc., based in Hartford, Conn. She added that since Treasuries are so low, companies are taking advantage of the opportunity to refinance.
Chase Securities Inc. and Merrill Lynch & Co. were among underwriters preparing issues for pricing. The lenders were on the road last week with a $400 million junk bond offering to back the leveraged buyout of Fisher Scientific International Inc. by Thomas H. Lee & Co. Lee in August announced plans to recapitalize Hampton, N.H.-based Fisher for $1.35 billion.
Chase and Merrill shared equally in underwriting the issue, which will take out a $400 million bridge loan the banks made to finance the deal. The issue is expected to price early this week.
Meanwhile, BT Alex. Brown Inc. is leading a $200 million offering backing Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.'s acquisition of Accuride Corp. New York-based KKR announced in November that it would buy the Phoenix-based wheel and rim manufacturing unit of Phelps Dodge for $480 million.
Sources said the bond deal should price late this week or early next week.
French bank Credit Lyonnais said last week that it has formed a high- yield debt group within its U.S. investment banking subsidiary, Credit Lyonnais Securities (USA) Inc.
Paul H. Phaneuf, formerly of CIBC Oppenheimer Corp., has been named managing director and head of the new group. Based in New York, Mr. Phaneuf, 40, will be responsible for high-yield origination, capital markets, sales, trading, and research. He will report to Allan Rosenberg, senior vice president.
With assets of $311 billion, Credit Lyonnais said it will enter the U.S. high-yield market and focus on its commercial relationships in the cable, telecommunications, energy, hotel and lodging, and health care industries.