Capitalizing on its British link, SPP Hambro & Co. helped U.K. issuer Wace Group PLC tap the U.S. private placement market for $60 million last week.

In addition to Wace, the private placement agent recently closed a deal for Thorn EMI PLC and plans to close one soon for Fisons PLC, both U.K. issuers, according to Neil Powell, SSP Hambro's chairman. He declined to provide amounts for those deals.

A desire to "hedge their U.S. dollar exposure" lured the companies to the U.S. private placement market, Mr. Powell said.

SPP Hambro also is rumored to be agent for a $50 million debt private placement deal by London International Group PLC, the U.K.'s leading condom manufacturer.

As for Wace, strong investor demand led the company to increase its deal to $60 million from $50 million, Mr. Powell said. The pre-press and printing company will use proceeds from the deal to repay bank debt, he said.

"That is, at this point, as far as they want to go," Mr. Powell said, "We had demand for $60 million."

A $45 million trache with a seven-year final, five-year average life and a $15 million piece with a 10-year final, seven-year average life comprised the issue, the source said. The $45 million piece was priced at 175 basis points over five-year Treasuries, while the $15 million portion was priced at 180 basis points over seven-year Treasuries.

Four buyers, principally insurance companies, have verbally committed to the offering. Closing is expected by year end, Mr. Powell said.

The company issued its offering with its subsidiary, Wace (USA) Inc. as co-obligaor. While Wace could have done a Rule 144A offering either by itself or through its U.S. subsidiary, it elected not to, he said.

Rule 144A, designed to facilitate secondary-market trading of private placements as well as to attract foreign issuers here, has developed faster in the equity market, a source explained. Investors in debt private placements -- primarily insurance companies and pension funds -- traditionally buy to hold.

SPP Hambro, successor to Manhattan boutique She, Paschall & Powell, has U.K. merchant bank Hambros PLC as its principal shareholder.

As for publicly traded debt, the high-yield market was quiet and off about 1/4 point Friday. Some cable names came under pressure, particularly the recent Comcast Corp. offering. The high-grade market was unchanged.

In Friday's ratings actions, Standard & Poor's Corp. upgraded the Republic of Portugal's long-term external debt to Ai-plus from Ai and its short-term external debt to A-li-plus from A-li. The "i" stands for an implicit rating. The agency simultaneously revised the rating outlook from stable to positive.

"The Republic of Portugal's rating upgrades reflect a considerable easing of external debt burdens associated with the country's strong economic growth and external payments performances, supportive economic policies, and growing governmental stability," Standard & Poor's said.

Standard & Poor's downgraded Amalgamated Investment Corp.'s 15% junior subordinated debentures to D from C, and has withdrawn the rating.

The lower rating came after Amalgamated announced it had filed for relief under Chapter 7 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code. Under Chapter 7, a bankruptcy trustee will be appointed to liquidate the company's assets and distribute proceeds to its creditors. Amalgamated has about $800,000 in assets and $148 million in liabilities, a Standard & Poor's release said.

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