Nearly ideal conditions ushered a flood of junk-bond issues to market last week. About $3.5 billion of issues were priced, according to KDP Investment Advisors, and $99.4 million flowed into high-yield mutual funds, according to AMG Data Services.
"I wouldn't call it euphoric, but there's certainly a good tone," said portfolio manager Doug Forsyth of the Nicholas Applegate High Yield Fund, San Diego. "It's very healthy to have new and better credits, and it just tests portfolio managers and analysts to bear down and cover the terrain."
Typically the high-yield market stops and catches its breath in March and April after the busy months of January and February. But after a short lull in trading a few weeks ago, the market has been brisk. Supply keeps coming in, investors keep snapping it up, and issues continue to trade at a premium of a half-point to a point in the aftermarket.
"One thing that hasn't changed has been the huge amount of supply," said Kevin Mathews, senior portfolio manager of the Pilgrim America High Yield Fund, Phoenix. Indeed, investors have been so focused on new issues that the secondary trading market has slowed.
"A lot of trading opportunities are going unused," Mr. Mathews said.
As inflation remains low, the economy grows steadily, and corporate earnings stay strong, investors are keeping a close watch on the domestic equity markets.
"We're basically at all-time highs, and that's something that should give any intelligent investor some pause," Mr. Mathews said.
In fact, as the stock market heads higher, and equity investors get uncomfortable with multiples, many are turning to the high-yield market. Retail mutual funds are now providing a big source of demand in the high- yield markets, investors said.
As for new issues, Lehman Brothers stole the spotlight last week, leading a three-part financing package to fund Premier Parks Inc.'s $1.9 billion purchase of Six Flags Entertainment Corp., the largest owner and operator of regional theme parks in the U.S.
The $700 million issue, which priced Thursday, included a $250 million issue of senior discount notes, a $280 million offering of senior notes for Premier, and a $170 million portion of Six Flags senior notes.
Also on Thursday, Lehman led a $900 million equity offering for Premier.
Syndication on a $772 million loan that Lehman led to finance the takeover closed the day before. Of that amount, $300 million was for Premier and $472 million was for Six Flags.
Bank of New York Corp. is the administrative agent on the loan-co-agents had not been determined at press time.
Premier, Time Warner Entertainment, and an investment group led by Boston Ventures Management Inc. teamed up for the purchase. Boston Ventures already owned 51% of Six Flags, while Time Warner owned the rest.
CIBC Oppenheimer Co. started off the week selling $200 million of 10- year senior notes for Morris Material Handling Inc. The bonds priced at 393 basis points over comparable Treasuries. The company manufactures and services cranes and other lifting machines.
Chase Securities Inc. led a $150 million issue of senior notes for Mediacom LLC/Capital Corp. Chase Manhattan Corp. also led a $325 million bank facility for the company.
NationsBanc Montgomery Securities Inc. brought three new issues to market last week. The underwriter priced a $75 million issue of senior secured notes for Shop At Home Inc., an Internet, electronic, and interactive shopping company based in Knoxville, Tenn.; a $100 million issue of senior subordinated notes for Prime Medical Services Inc., Austin, Tex.; and a $75 million issue of senior notes for Simcala Inc., Mount Miegs, Ala., a manufacturer of silicon metals.
Also last week, Natwest Markets priced a $110 million issue of senior secured notes for Bluegreen, a timeshare company based in Boca Raton, Fla. The notes priced to yield 10.5%.