CAM Investment Grade Weekly Insights
Fund Flows & Issuance: According to Lipper, for the week ended June 28, investment grade funds posted a net inflow of $2.299m down from $2.535bn the prior week. Per Lipper data, the year-to-date net inflow into investment grade funds was $71.045bn. According to Bloomberg, investment grade corporate issuance for the week was $26.49bn. Through the week, YTD total corporate bond issuance was $746.385bn, which is down 5.5% when compared to 2016.
(WSJ) Visa Takes War on Cash to Restaurants
- Visa Inc. has a new offer for small merchants: take thousands of dollars from the card giant to upgrade their payment technology. In return, the businesses must stop accepting cash.
- The company unveiled the initiative on Wednesday as part of a broader effort to steer Americans away from using old-fashioned paper money. Visa says it is planning to give $10,000 apiece to up to 50 restaurants and food vendors to pay for their technology and marketing costs, as long as the businesses pledge to start what Visa executive Jack Forestell calls a “journey to cashless.”
- Consumers at those stores would be able to pay for goods or services only with debit or credit cards or with their cellphones. In exchange, Visa is offering to pay for upgrades to merchants’ technology at the checkout line so that they can accept contactless payments, such as Apple Pay . The $10,000 incentive can also help cover some of the merchants’ marketing expenses.
- Visa has long considered cash one of its biggest competitors and has been taking steps to chip away at it. Getting rid of cash is a priority for Visa Chief Executive Al Kelly, who took over late last year, especially as cash and check transactions continue to grow globally.
- “We’re focused on putting cash out of business,” Mr. Kelly said at Visa’s investor day last month, adding that converting check and cash to digital and electronic payments is the company’s “number-one growth lever.”
- Still, cash remains a formidable competitor. Check and cash transactions totaled $17 trillion world-wide in 2016, up about 2% from a year prior, according to Visa.
- Cards have made a dent in cash in the U.S., but cash remains the most widely used payment form among Americans, accounting for 32% of all consumer transactions in 2015, compared with 27% for debit cards and 21% for credit cards, according to a November report by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
(Moody’s) HCA’s Increased ABL Reduces Likelihood of Upgrade of Senior Secured Notes
- HCA Inc. (subsidiary of HCA Healthcare, Inc.) recently amended and extended its asset-based revolving credit facility (ABL). The facility was upsized to $3.75 bilion from $3.25 billion and the expiration date was extended to June 2022. In addition, HCA amended and extended its $2 billion revolving credit facility. The expiration date of the revolving credit facility was extended to 2022 from 2019. There are no changes to any ratings including the Ba2 Corporate Family Rating, the Baa2 rating on the ABL, the Ba1 on the senior secured debt and the B1 on the unsecured notes. The rating outlook is positive.
- Absent any further changes to the capital structure, there is reduced likelihood that the senior secured debt (including notes and credit facilities) would be upgraded to investment grade if Moody’s upgrades HCA’s CFR to Ba1. This is due to changes in the HCA’s capital structure and attributes of Moody’s Loss Given Default Methodology.
(Bloomberg) Implications of Tax Policy Changes on IG Industrials
- Potential changes in tax laws could have credit implications for high grade industrials. The 28 high grade industrials tracked at BI have accumulated $55 billion of cash, largely in non-U.S. subsidiaries, mainly to avoid current repatriation laws. Cash-to-revenue averaged as low as 8% for the peers as recently as 2008, but topped 28% at year-end. That suggests about $27 billion could be repatriated, possibly earmarked for share repurchases and dividends, akin to 2004’s tax holiday.
- Honeywell, Illinois Tool Works, Cummins and Rockwell Automation are among the group outliers, with above-average ratios, suggesting they may have more opportunity to bring cash home.
(WSJ) Corporate Bond Markets Asleep at the Wheel
- There’s a fine line in financial markets between resilience and complacency. Corporate bonds are sitting right on it.
- Global government bonds have been shaken as central banks, most notably the European Central Bank, have signaled that the clock is ticking on ultra-loose monetary policy. Ten-year German bond yields have risen about 0.3 percentage point from their late-June lows, pushing up U.S. Treasury yields too.
- Yet corporate bonds haven’t even blinked. Indeed, the yield spread on European and U.S. investment-grade bonds versus underlying government debt has actually compressed since the turmoil started, Bank of America Merrill Lynch indexes show. Yields have risen, just not by as much as on government bonds. At 0.99 percentage point in Europe and 1.12 points in the U.S., investment-grade spreads are close to their tightest level since the global financial crisis.
- And credit conditions may be shifting. Activist investors are making waves in Europe: perhaps the best example is Dan Loeb at hedge fund Third Point targeting consumer giant Nestlé , pitting shareholder interests against those of bondholders. The company promised to double its leverage ratio to fund stock buybacks, yet spreads on its bonds barely reacted. Better earnings prospects should support corporate bonds; but the real benefit will accrue to shareholders, not bondholders. Spreads do offer some protection against falling bond prices, but little against a deterioration in credit quality.
- Corporate bonds have benefited greatly from central-bank support and benign credit conditions. Shifting tides mean relying on those factors persisting looks risky.