NationsBank Corp. has been trying to downplay the notion that the $3 billion of commercial paper it has filed to issue might be used for acquisitions.
The Charlotte, N.C., bank late last month filed a shelf registration with the Securities & Exchange Commission that would enable it to issue various kinds of commercial paper.
NationsBank spokeswoman Martha Larsh insisted that the capital will be used for "general corporate purposes," particularly the payment of maturing debt. She declined to discuss the possibility of acquisitions, saying it was the bank's policy not to comment on "speculation."
However, analysts said NationsBank has been such an active acquirer in the past that a $3 billion shelf registration tends to create such anxieties. Indeed, analyst Allerton G. Smith, of Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette, said he was nervous about the bank's intentions when he first heard of the registration.
But he said the company's management reassured him that it "would not use its debt financing in an acquisition to the extent that it would threaten (the bank's) ratings by the creation of goodwill or double leverage."
Bank bond analyst Ann Robinson of Bear Stearns & Co. said there is nothing unusual about in a big registration statement by the nearly $200 billion-asset bank. NationsBank is a "huge company and it is always in the market," she said.
"If investors want to be worried, they should be worried about First Union," said Ms. Robinson, referring to recent acquisitions by NationsBank's cross-town rival.
Ms. Robinson said NationsBank's paper has gotten cheaper to investors in the last month due to recent concerns over credit, consumer bankruptcy ,and the increase in issuance by U.S. banks overseas, where NationsBank is an active issuer.
But she said the drop in price represents a buying opportunity, rather than a cause for concern.
"The spreads in all corporate paper has widened," she said, referring to the yield on debt, which moves in the opposite direction from the price.
She said the $3 billion registration statement caused "no reaction in the spreads" on bank debt.
NationsBank has several current shelf registrations with the SEC, including one that allows issuance of senior and subordinated notes, a commercial paper program and a program that allows issuance of Euro medium- term notes.