The land that gave us Pavarotti, paparazzi, and pasta may add up to $5 billion of U.S. dollar global bonds to the list, sources familiar with the offering said yesterday.
The Republic of Italy has begun a road show expected to run through Sept. 14. Salomon Brothers Inc. and Goldman, Sachs & Co. are said to be co-leads on the offering. The maturity is expected to be 10 years, a source familiar with the deal said.
Italy filed a shelf registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission last month.
Other names being heard in the market include the World Bank, the Republic of Portugal, the Republic of Venezuela, and New Jersey Bell Telephone Co.
While a syndicate desk source said three Canadian Provinces - Ontario, Alberta, and Quebec - also appear to be looking to offer debt, at least one of those provinces emphatically denied the rumor.
"Unequivocally, no," said Gord Rosko, director of communications for the Province of Alberta, when asked whether Alberta planned an offering.
As for Quebec, a source familiar with such issues said, "It's very surprising" that such a rumor would surface because the province is already well ahead in its borrowing program.
The World Bank this week is expected to issue a $1.25 billion U.S. dollar global bond offering through joint-bookrunning managers Lehman Brothers Inc. and Nomura Securities. The noncallable bonds are likely to have a 10-year maturity.
Timing on Portugal's alleged offering was less certain, though a road show was scheduled for next week in Chicago, one source said. Merrill Lynch & Co. was said to be involved with the issue, which was described as totaling $1 billion and having a 10-year maturity. A Merrill Lynch spokeswoman yesterday declined comment.
As for Venezuela, the source said the offering, which had been rumored for two weeks or so, was expected to have a two-year maturity. He was unsure whether the offering would be a Yankee deal or a Euro-bond issue.
Still expected is a $300 million competitive offering by New Jersey Bell Telephone.
Robert Waldman, director of corporate bond research at Salomon Brothers, noted an increasing number of Yankee bond issuers eyeing the market.
Those issuers find the U.S. market attractive because it offers them a depth their markets often lack.
"There is no bond market in the world that is as deep or as broad as the U.S. market," Waldman said.
Aside from the obvious lure of current low borrowing costs here, prospective Yankee issuers are discovering that good demand exists for their offerings as cash-laden investors look for alternatives to the traditional new issue fare.
"Our buyers are looking for yield." he said. "They are all just chock-full of the normal issues."
In other news yesterday, IMC Fertilizer Group Inc. yesterday said it reached an agreement with Prudential Insurance Company of America that allows IMC to buy back $220 million of 11.25% notes of IMC Fertilizer Inc., IMC's principal subsidiary.
The Northbrook, Ill.-based company will repurchase the notes for about $250 million, according to an IMC release. They were originally scheduled to come due in annual installments from 1995 to 2004.
IMC Fertilizer Group expects to complete the buyback before Nov. 1. The parent company plans to issue new debt and/or equity or equity-related securities to fund the refinancing, the release says.
"Our objective is to increase the company's financial flexibility by refinancing this subsidiary debt with new parent company securities," said Wendell F. Bueche, the company's president and chief executive officer, in the release.
In secondary trading, high-yield bonds ended unchanged. High-grade issues ended a listless day unchanged to slightly wider, with widening more noticeable in the triple-B area.
Seagram Co. Ltd. issued $200 million of 6 7/8% debentures due 2023. The noncallable debentures were priced to yield 78 basis points more than the 7 1/8% Treasuries. Goldman, Sachs & Co. was sole manager of the offering.
Aetna Life & Casualty issued $200 million of debentures due 2013. The noncallable debentures were priced at 99.901 to yield 6.759% or 75 basis points more than the 71/8% Treasuries. Moody's Investors Service rates the offering A1. while Standard & Poor's Corp. rates it AA-minus.