September 5, 2014 / 12:55 PM / 3 years ago

Santander upsets CoCo cart as floodgates prepare to open

4 Min Read

* Santander ploughs into bond market with 1.5bn CoCo

* UniCredit suffers as Santander struggles in secondary market

* HSBC, Credit Agricole and others line up for capital rush

By Aimee Donnellan

LONDON, Sept 5 (IFR) - Santander's push to be the first in a wave of bank capital issuance across Europe threatened to upset the CoCo market just as it is set to take off, when the seemingly oversized trade struggled to perform post-pricing.

The 1.5bn perpetual non-call seven-year Additional Tier 1 deal attracted over 3bn of demand, a far cry from the 17bn the bank received from 820 investors for its inaugural euro issue back in March.

Up until this summer, banks had been able to dictate pricing terms but heightened international political risk, a sell-off in the asset class over the summer and a bulging pipeline of deals are allowing investors to be choosier.

Santander rushed out its deal ahead of a similar trade from UniCredit, but after taking 1.5bn out of the market on the back of the relatively small order book, the deal failed to perform and was still bid below par on Friday at 99.375.

The two issuers announced their intentions of selling AT1s on the same day but Santander was able to pull the trigger faster as it had already tapped the euro market, unlike UniCredit which had only raised AT1 debt in US dollars.

"Santander was ready to go for some time so it was really just coincidental that it came at the same time as UniCredit," said a banker on the trade. The deal was led by Credit Suisse, HSBC, JP Morgan, Santander, Societe Generale and UBS.

"Some people may think they should have adjusted the size for the demand that they met but they had always said on the roadshow they were targeting 1.5bn."

By the time UniCredit was able to go out with its offer, having concluded a two-day roadshow, Santander's issue was quoted at 99.1, having priced at 100.

"Santander caused a lot of problems for UniCredit. I think at the end of the day no one is surprised by Santander's actions but it just goes against the etiquette of the market," said a syndicate banker away from both trades.

Santander declined to comment.

"UniCredit were trying to get in ahead of a lot of supply and Santander jumped in ahead of them and printed too big a deal that is not performing."

Leads Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Credit Agricole, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and UniCredit's investment banking unit considered delaying the deal, expected to be rated BB- by Fitch, after spending the early part of Wednesday morning eyeing the poor performance of Santander. However, when it bounced back to 99.5, they decided to go ahead.

Choppy Waters

Italy's largest bank by assets was then able to price a 1bn perpetual non-call seven in line with guidance at 6.75%, higher than the mid-6% yield the market had been expecting

Bankers reported extreme sensitivity in UniCredit's order book during execution with a number of investors pulling out just before the bond was priced.

"Overall we are pleased with the outcome of this deal," said Waleed El Amir, head of strategic funding and portfolio at UniCredit.

"The order book reached around 2bn from real-money accounts and the reason we are not seeing too much volatility post-pricing is because the deal was anchored with a buy-and-hold investor base."

By Friday morning, UniCredit paper was bid at 100.875. The deal's performance and the fact that Santander has bounced back has given bankers hope that Santander's underperformance was just a temporary phenomenon.

It does mean, however, that for other frequent AT1 issuers such as Credit Agricole, which is preparing its next capital transaction for as early as next week, the deal execution process will have to be handled with extreme caution.

The same goes for HSBC, which is planning to print a potentially large AT1 bond debut next week, too. (Reporting by Aimee Donnellan; Editing by Helene Durand, Matthew Davies and Julian Baker)

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