A rumor that the company's banks are trying to force it into bankruptcy is "absolutely false." a Stone Container Corp. spokesman said yesterday.
"The banks have been and continue to be very supportive of the company's plan," company spokesman Mark Lindley said.
Stone Container bonds experienced a wild ride Friday, losing as much as 10 points early in the day. The bonds recouped those losses and even posted some slight gains by day's end, however.
Some speculation exists that short-sellers, hoping to drive prices down, may have been spreading the bankruptcy rumors, said Brian Bogart, a group vice president at Duff & Phelps/MCM Investment Research Co.
But Bogart said that genuine concern about what will happen with regard to bank negotiations has also played a role. The analyst said he does not give much credence to the bankruptcy rumors, however.
Friday aside, the Chicago-based paper products company's bonds have been under pressure this month, Bogart said, shedding as much as 12 points since early September.
Stone Container's 11 7/8% senior notes due 1998 were trading at 91 late yesterday, down from 98 early this month, he said.
The company's 11 1/2% senior subordinated notes due 1999 were trading at 73, down from 85 for the same time period, he said.
Part of the reason for the bond's decline has been the rumor concerning its banks and overall concerns about the negotiations, Bogart said.
The rumor holds that when Stone Container went to its banks seeking covenant relief that would allow it to spin off its Canadian newsprint operation, the banks wanted the company to declare bankruptcy.
According to Lindley, the company has held a series of meetings with its banks, the most recent of which was Friday, and they continue to be supportive.
The initial public offering that is part of Stone's spinoff plan is proceeding on schedule, the spokesman added.
Bogart said the other issue weighing on the bonds is whether the new company, to be called Stone-Consolidated Corp., will be able to sell its high-yield debt and equity to finance the transaction.
The high-yield new issue market has been somewhat tough these days, but that climate is improving, Bogart said.
Stone Container will retain control of the new company, but plans to sell 25% to 35% through an initial public offering in Canada, Bogart said.
Also to finance the spinoff, Stone-Consolidated plans to offer $325 million of high-yield debt in the U.S. debt market.
Asked whether he thinks bankruptcy is in Stone Container's future, Bogart replied, "I don't think we're looking at a bankruptcy." He said, however, that the company's financial situation continues to be risky.
"If the spinoff doesn't work, they could try to revamp it in some form or go to direct asset sales." he said.
Stone needs to keep raising cash to stay ahead of its bank debt maturities and it also needs to get a price increase, Bogart said.
All major players in the linerboard industry are seeking an increase on Oct. 1, but Bogart remains skeptical about their chances. Consequently, Stone Container is unlikely to see a price increase before next spring, he said.
In other news yesterday, a Fitch Investors Service inc. study said corporate bond calls could top $144 billion in 1993 if interest rates stay around their Sept. 1 levels.
The study said that $74 billion of corporate bonds had already been called through Aug. 31. According to the Fitch corporate bond data base, another $70 billion of bonds are likely candidates to be called by yearend.
"The yield on the 30-year U.S. Treasury bond dropped 132 basis points to 6.08% in the eight months ended Aug. 31, prompting a huge increase in bond redemptions and new issues," a Fitch release says. "This year's calls already exceed the $67 billion in total calls for all of 1992."
In secondary trading yesterday, high-yield issues saw slightly heavier trading and firmer prices. Spreads on high-grade issues were mostly unchanged in quiet trading.
SPI Holdings derived $150 million of proceeds from the sale of senior discount notes due 2001. The notes were priced at 71.59 and are zero coupon for three years. The yield to maturity is 11.50%. The notes, which are callable at a premium after four years, were rated B2 by Moody's Investors Service and B-plus by Standard & Poor's Corp. Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corp. was lead manager.
Federal Home Loan Banks issued $111 million of 3.81% debentures due 1995 at par. The noncallable debentures were priced to yield two basis points more than comparable Treasuries. Lehman Brothers was sole manager.
Federal Home Loan Banks issued $53 million of 4.74% debentures due 1998 at par. The noncallable bonds were priced to yield six basis points more than comparable Treasuries. Merrill Lynch & Co. was sole manager.
Federal Home Loan Banks issued $51 million of 4.12% notes due 1996 at par. The noncallable debentures were priced to yield four basis points more than comparable Treasuries. Smith Barney Shearson was the sole manager.
Tennessee Valley Authority issued $50 million of 3.81% medium-term notes due 1995 at par. The noncallable notes were priced to yield three basis points more than comparable Treasuries. Merrill Lynch was sole manager.
Moody's has given a B2 rating to Affinity Group Inc.'s proposed $110 million issue of senior subordinated notes due 2003, marking the first time it has rated the credit.
"The rating reflects the company's continued high leverage, but is moderated by improved operating performance and a strong niche position in direct marketing," a Moody's release says.
Affinity Group has bettered its operating performance ever since its 1989 leveraged buyout "with a constantly growing membership base and consequent increases in sales," the release says.
While the refinancing will increase financial leverage somewhat, it will also reduce interest expense and extend maturities, Moody's said.
"However, limited borrowing capacity under its bank loan agreement combined with high leverage will somewhat constrain short- to medium-term financial flexibility," the release says.