Underwritten U.S. straight debt issues in 1991 shattered last year's record, climbing 64% to total $464.4 billion, according to early figures released by IDD Information Services yesterday.

U.S. corporate underwriting overall proved an even mightier record-buster, growing 74% from 1990 to 1991 to total $544 billion year-to-date, an IDD release said. Straight debt issues include mortgage- and asset-backed issues, an IDD source said.

"The decline in interest rates, the rally in the stock market versus 1990, and deleveraging of corporate America have contributed to the uptick in the market despite the recessionary environment of the U.S. economy," IDD said. "This trend continues as a barrage of new securities offerings are being filed with the SEC each day."

As for various other categories, mortgage-backed debt new issue underwriting jumped 68% to $225.5 billion from 1990 and asset-backed debt climbed 14% to $45.8 billion. Both also broke 1990 records.

Common equity rose 177% over last year to $53.2 billion, breaking a 1986 record. Initial public offerings leapt 127% over 1990 to $23.0 billion, but failed to surpass a $24.2 billion record set in 1987. Closed-end funds climbed 40% to $7.8 billion, also short of its record in 1988 of $17.8 billion.

Preferred stock proved the biggest gainer by category, shooting up 316% over 1990 to $19.0 billion. It broke a 1986 record of $13.6 billion. IDD attributed the rise in preferred stock largely to "the explosion of PERCS," or preferred equity redemption cumulative stock, which totaled $4.1 billion, representing some 22% of the total preferred volume.

Overall, 1991 equity underwriting volume soared 203% over last year, and 533% for 1991's fourth quarter compared with the same period in 1990, IDD said. In fact, fourth quarter 1991 equity underwritings through Dec. 17 have already surpassed the level for all of 1990.

Disclosed underwriting fees overall hit $4.45 billion for the year as of Dec. 17, and are expected to top 1987's $4.5 billion level by year-end. But fees are expected to still fall short of 1986's record $5 billion. Total fees rose 129% over 1990, and were up 273% for the fourth quarter alone, compared to 1990's fourth quarter.

"This rebound in volume of underwriting fees is largely due to the record volume of common equity offerings which typically bring in big fees," IDD's release said.

But though equity fees represent more than 71% of the fee volume, they account for just 13% of underwriting volume, IDD noted.

Merrill Lynch & Co. emerged as the leading new issue underwriter for the past four years overall, heading the pack from 1988 to 1991. That falls a year short of Salomon Brothers Inc.'s five consecutive-year record set from 1983 to 1987.

Merrill also headed the list for debt underwriting fees this year. Goldman, Sachs & Co. kept its number two standing rank overall for both issue volume and fees, and finished first in common equity underwriting.

Lehman Brothers bumped up four spots overall from seventh place in 1990 to third in 1991, largely due to "explosive" debt market growth, primarily mortgage-backed debt issuance. Morgan Stanley & Co. maintained its number five spot overall but clinched the first place in preferred stock underwriting.

Final figures will be available Dec. 31, IDD said.

In other news, bondholders betting Trump Plaza Associates would extend its exchange offer deadline proved correct, as Trump upped its offer.

"There's a little more incentive now for people to do it," John P. Burke, treasurer at Trump Plaza Associates, said yesterday.

Trump extended yesterday's 5 p.m. deadline to midnight Jan. 2. The company also increased the interest rate on the secured notes it hopes to exchange for a portion of its $225 million of 12 7/8% first mortgage bonds to 14 1/4% from the 13 7/8% it offered when it announced the exchange initially on Nov. 19, Mr. Burke said.

Also, bondholders validly tendering before the Jan. 2 deadline will receive a cash payment of $10 per each $1,000 principal amount of the bonds accepted. Trump also changed the minimum principal amount for the firt mortgage bonds to be tendered as a condition of the offer to $25 million from $50 million. The maximum principal amount of bonds that will be accepted was also lowered to $75 million from $100 million.

Mr Burke said he was unauthorized to disclose the number of bondholders accepting the exchange offer as of the first deadline. Trump Plaza undertook the exchange offer "to increase the financial flexibility for the Plaza," he said.

In yesterday's secondary trading, high-grade and high-yield bonds remained largely unchanged.

"The market was very quiet," one high-grade trader said. "It was a nonevent." A high-yield trader added that R.H. Macy & Co. bonds continued their slide, with the zeros hardest hit in about a four-point slide.

As for yesterday's new issues, Morgan Guaranty Trust Co. issued $1 billion of 4.5% bank notes. The noncallable notes were priced at 99.971 to yield 4.53% or 11 basis points over comparable Treasuries. Both agencies rate the deal triple-A. Lehman Brothers sole managed the offering.

As for the private placement market, Prudential Power Funding Associates purchased EUA Cogenex Corp.'s entire $20 million issue of 10-year notes.

EUA Cogenex, a subsidiary of Boston-based Eastern Utilities Associates, will use proceeds to repay short-term debt. Prudential Power, a unit of the Prudential, has provided more than $1 billion of private placement debt and equity capital to the power industry this year.

Standard & Poor's Corp. has placed Sunbeam Corp.'s BB-rated 5.5% sinking fund senior unsecured debentures due 1992 on CreditWatch for a possible upgrade, a Standard & Poor's release said.

The listing reflects Sunbeam-Oster's strong performance and lower-than-expected usage in its first year of rising from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the release said. Sunbeam is a unit of Sunbeam-Oster.

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