Springleaf offers first personal loan ABS since 1998

Tue Feb 5, 2013 3:25pm EST

NEW YORK, Feb 5 (IFR) - Struggling US lender Springleaf Financial, in the midst of a restructuring to stave off bankruptcy, has raised eyebrows in the market with the first US personal loan ABS offering since 1998.

The repackaging of its loans as asset-backed securities (ABS) comes as Springleaf faces questions over the size of its debt obligations coming due in the next few years.

Unlike auto loans and mortgages, personal consumer loans are only rarely securitized, or bundled together as underlying collateral for securities publicly sold to investors.

Springleaf, which is 20 percent owned by US bailout recipient AIG, has not been shy about testing investor appetite since the onset of the financial crisis.

In August the lender sold US$970 million of securities backed by subprime residential mortgages, as it scrambled to raise cash to pay down US$2 billion of debt due by end 2012.

It was the third subprime RMBS (residential mortgage-backed security) sold publicly in the United States since the onset of the financial crisis, which was sparked by bad subprime mortgage loans. All were sold by Springleaf.

At the same time, as part of its restructuring, Springleaf has decided to stop providing residential mortgage loans and is closing all branches in 14 states.

Rated Caa1/CCC by Moody's and Standard & Poor's, the Indiana-based lender is expected to offer US$500 million of senior fixed-rate bonds and US$104 billion subordinated bonds in its new ABS offering.

The average balance of loans in the underlying collateral pool is approximately US$3,500, and the weighted average FICO credit score of the recipients is a relatively very low 602.

While Springleaf has significant debt obligations coming due, S&P said that the company's current liquidity was adequate to meet its obligations into 2014 without issuing further debt.

But the ratings agency also said it was concerned that Springleaf is highly leveraged - with a long-term debt to equity ration of 9.6:1 - and has more than US$12.6 billion in debt.

"While the company has addressed its short-term liquidity concerns through 2014, it has pressing liquidity needs after 2014, which would coincide with the amortization phase of this transaction," S&P said.

The loan pool for the new deal, likely to be offered for sale to the public next week, is expected to be around 90% comprised of so-called hard secured loans - that is, loans secured by a lien on the personal assets of recipients such as autos, motorcycles and recreation vehicles.

Citigroup (structuring lead), Bank of America and Credit Suisse are the underwriters for the new deal from Springleaf, which was formerly known as American General Finance.