The high-yield market continued to build momentum last week as consolidation and refinancing drove activity in the secondary market.
Participants said that the buildup in junk bond issues delayed from the late part of 1997 and priced in the last few weeks created a fairly decent activity level in a time of year that normally would be quiet.
The level of new deals is difficult to predict because of the prevalence of issuance through Rule 144a-which lets issuers tap the market opportunistically. But as much as $8.3 billion in new issues is on the calendar, market sources said.
"The news that's happening in high yield is all good," said Richard Cryan, a portfolio manager with Keystone Investments in Boston.
"Prices are up, demand for new issues is strong, and for all intents and purposes, the January rally is happening and continues to happen," Mr. Cryan said.
Fourth-quarter earnings have given investors a firmer sense of the impact of the Asian financial crisis on the cash flows of companies with businesses in the affected regions. So far, "people are doing surprisingly well," Mr. Cryan said.
Collateralized bond obligations, insurance companies, and other cross- over investors have become stronger forces of demand in the market. They are providing an appetite for offerings under $100 million and for companies with more obscure lines of businesses.
Among the notable issues in the market is a $207 million deal for Norimpac Inc., a Canadian container board and corrugated package producer. CIBC Oppenheimer Corp. and Salomon Smith Barney are joint co-leads on the issue; Scotia MacLeod is co-managing the issue. Part of the offering will be issued in U.S. dollars, while the remainder will be denominated in Canadian dollars.
Elsewhere, Chase Securities Inc. is sole-managing a deutsche mark- denominated $245 million senior note issue for Texon International PLC, a London-based owner of United Texon Ltd., a manufacturer of footwear materials. The notes will be used to repay bank debt and discounted bond issue.
BT Alex. Brown Inc. is in the market with a $325 million offering for Graham Packaging Co., a York, Pa.-based maker of customized plastic bottles for large branded consumer products. The two-part issue includes $225 million of 10-year notes and $100 million of discount notes.
The proceeds will be used to help fund a recapitalization by Blackstone Capital Partners 3d Merchant Banking Fund LP and to repay debt.