This week's new-issue market promises to make molasses look speedy. "Not a creature will be stirring, not even a mouse," Richard S. Barnett, director of corporate bond research at Yamaichi International (America) Inc., said Friday.
"There may be a couple [new offerings], but it's going to be a very, very quiet week," he said, adding that a number of market participants are on vacation and many accounts are closed. For Michael Dee, a principal in the corporate bond syndicate department at Morgan Stanley & Co., Wednesday's $150 million offering by Shawmut National Corp. was his last deal of the year.
Dee and others say the offering makes Shawmut the lowest-rated bank to gain access to the market in recent memory. The New England-based bank took advantage of a return toward stability in that region, he said.
"Their problem loans have declined dramatically," said Dee, whose firm lead managed the offering.
Though Moody's Investors Service rates the offering Ba3 and Standard & Poor's Corp. rates it BB-minus, the deal was believed to be sold entirely to investment-grade buyers, he said.
"We got very broad interest in the deal," Dee said. The seven-year offering, executed at the holding company level, was priced at 99.754 to yield 8.672%, or 225 basis points over comparable Treasuries. Some had expected the offering to come at a wider spread.
"I think what surprised a lot of people was how successful it was at that price," he said.
Dee added that two other splitrated bank deals, each with one non-investment-grade rating, were done this year. Morgan lead managed one of those deals, a $125 million, 10-year subordinated offering for Crestar Financial.
The rest of the high-yield new-issue market is expected to be dead for the remainder of the year, but should rev up again in January, one high-yield investor said last week.
Two deals expected in mid-January are Bally's Health and Tennis' $200 million of senior subordinated notes due 2002 and Revco Drug Stores' $1 25 million of senior notes due 1999. Both deals are through Merrill Lynch & Co.
In other news Friday, Hydro-Quebec filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange commission for an additional $2.48 billion of shelf debt. The registration would bring the Canadian utility's shelf debt total to $3.5 billion, according to Andre Marcil, Hy-dro-Quebec's director of financing.
Marcil said the utility's fiscal year is the calendar year and Friday's filing was aimed at positioning the company for next year. Hydro-Quebec has, no current plans for a specific offering, he said.
Meanwhile, responding to pleas from faculty, students, and alumni, Dartmouth College announced yesterday it would divest its entire $6.8 million holdings of Hydro-Quebec bonds, an attorney said yesterday.
Andrew Orkin, legal counsel to the Grand Counsel of Crees of Quebec, said his clients were "delighted" with Dartmouth's actions.
The Dartmouth academic community requested the divestiture to protest Hydro-Quebec's James Bay project in northern Quebec, which they say adversely affects the environment and indigenous people of the regions, the Crees and Inuits. The Crees have lost hunting and fishing lands to flooding and have been exposed to mercury poisoning, Orkin alleged.
Alluding to a renewed global focus this year on indigenous peoples and environmental concerns, Orkin said if finally looks "as though a new consciousness or attitude might be emerging about North American's relationship with their environment and the indigenous people of this continent. "
He stressed however that Dartmouth approached the Crees.
"We think this is a very timely and correct decision on the part of Dartmouth, but the Crees do not have a campaign of disinvestment [against Hydro-Quebec] at this time."
Marcil could not be reached late Friday for comment on the issue.
In secondary activity Friday, "absolutely nothing" happened in high-grade corporate bonds, with spreads finishing unchanged to Treasuries, one trader said.
"It's already dead," he said, adding that he expected no resurrection before next year. High-yield bonds ended quiet and unchanged.
Comdata Network Inc. issued a two-part offering totaling $205 million. The first tranche consisted of $130 million of 12.50% senior notes due 1999 at par. The notes, callable after five years at 10 1. 786, were rated B1 by Moody's and B-plus by Standard & Poor's.
The second tranche consisted of $75 million of 13.25% senior subordinated debentures due 2002 at par. The notes are callable after five years at 106.625, moving to par in 2001. Moody's rates the offering B3, while Standard & Poor's rates it B-minus.
Kidder, Peabody & Co. sole managed the offering.
Kenetech Corp. issued $100 million of 12.75% senior secured notes due 2002. The notes were priced at 98.611 to yield 13%. They are callable after five years at 106.375, later at 103.187 and then at par. Moody's rates the offering B3, while Standard & Poor's rates it B. Merrill ch managed the offering.
Coast Federal Savings issued $50 million of 13% notes due 2002. The notes are callable after five years at a premium. Moody's rates the offering B3, while Standard & Poor's rates it B-minus. Kemper Securities Inc. lead managed the offering.
Federal Farm Credit Bank issued $25 million of 6.56% medium-term notes due 1999 at par. The noncallable notes were priced to yield 15 basis points over comparable Treasuries. Bear, Stearns & Co. managed the offering.
Standard & Poor's has downgraded Town & Country Corp.'s 13% senior subordinated notes due 1998 to D from CC. The rating agency also has removed the notes from Credit Watch, where they were placed with developing implications on Aug. 12.