Societe Generale Securities Corp. made its debut Monday as the lead manager of a junk bond offering, according to investors.

The U.S. investment banking arm of the French bank will start the road show for a $100 million high-yield bond offering for Stellex Industries Inc., a maker of subsystems and components for the aerospace, defense, and space industries. BT Alex. Brown Inc. and Jefferies & Co. are co-managers of the deal.

Proceeds from the offering will be used to repay the company's existing debt. Societe Generale is also planning a $25 million revolving credit facility for Stellex and a $25 million acquisition facility.

Societe Generale has been steadily building its high-yield group since March 1996, grabbing talent from NationsBank Corp., Bear, Stearns & Co., First Boston, and Goldman, Sachs & Co. Now the high-yield corporate finance, capital markets, sales, trading, and research staff totals about 40 professionals.

The group has co-managed 11 deals for about $2.5 billion. Societe Generale also joint-led with Morgan Stanley, Dean Witter, Discover & Co. a $400 million offering for Perez Compunc.

Investors say that because of their familiarity with these junk bond professionals, many of whom have already co-managed many deals, the hurdles for this start-up shop are not as high as for underwriters sitting in the driver's seat for the first time.

"It's a first-time lead, but they've been out there doing business for awhile," said one investor. "And that gives some sign of how they manage the process." In fact, so many commercial banking companies have made their leading debuts in recent years-First Union Corp., BankAmerica Corp., and Royal Bank of Canada among them-that investors have gotten accustomed to it.

Another investor added that though many groups can cut their teeth in high-yield while times are good, the real test will come during an economic downturn.

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