TEXT - Fitch on U.S. convenant-lite loans

Mon Nov 26, 2012 11:21am EST

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(The following statement was released by the rating agency)

Nov 26 - U.S. covenant-lite loans have made a significant comeback in the leveraged finance market, reflecting investor willingness to take on more risk in exchange for higher yields, according to a report by Fitch Ratings. Year-to-date, covenant-lite loan issuance totaled $49 billion. The strong growth in covenant-lite loan issuance has continued into the fourth quarter. In October 2012, covenant-lite issuance represented 31% of institutional loan issuance, the highest percentage since the end of the credit crisis. The growth of covenant-lite issuance coincides with the increase in collateralized loan obligation (CLO) issuance. Year-to-date, over $37 billion of CLOs have been issued versus $13 billion in all of 2011.The leveraged loan market remains heavily dependent on the CLO investor class, with CLOs representing approximately 45% of the current leveraged loan buyer base. The growth of both leveraged loan and covenant-lite issuance remains supported by the growth of primary CLO issuances. Based on the limited number of covenant-lite defaults, Fitch estimates the average covenant-lite term loan recovery rate between 55%-60%. This compares to an average overall loan recovery rate of approximately 62% between 2008-2009, when most of the defaults occurred. Recently, many borrowers have combined an asset-backed lending (ABL) revolver in conjunction with a cash flow-based covenant-lite term loan. The combined ABL and covenant-lite structure provides a borrower greater flexibility and more advantageous pricing. However, an ABL revolver ahead of a covenant-lite term loan could adversely impact future recovery rates on covenant-lite loans. The full report 'Covenant-Lite Loans' is available at 'www.fitchratings.com.' This report examines recent trends in covenant-lite loans, specifically loans with ABL revolvers, covenant-lite defaults and recovery values. Also included in the report are a series of case studies. The report 'Covenant-Lite Loans: Increased Presence of Asset Based Revolvers Could Impact Covenant-Lite Recoveries' is available by clicking on the link below. (Caryn Trokie, New York Ratings Unit)

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