Refi Madness

If sheer volume means anything, total syndicated loan activity in the US for the first half of the year was singular. According to Thomson Reuters LPC, more than $1.2 trillion of paper – both investment and non-investment grade – was distributed through June 30. That was a bigger number than any other half-year on record.

Digging into the data, however, indicated that (as usual) quality didn’t necessarily follow quantity. Indeed, almost 75% of transactions involved recycled money. Loans related to M&A deals for the first half amounted to $196 billion, the lowest such figure in four years.

At a glance, leveraged loans also came on strong. So far this year, more than $730 billion hit the market, also a half-time record. But again, more than 70% came from existing lenders for either refinancings or repricings.

In the middle market a similar story emerges. First half volume for all middle market loans was a hair under $79 billion. Because of their less liquid nature, repricings tend to be less frequent for smaller deals (less than 50% of deal flow) than for large institutional credits. Still, the lack of new money opportunities hurt.