September 22, 2010 / 7:00 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 3-Microsoft sells debt at record U.S. low rate

* Sells $4.75 bln debt in four parts

* 3-year bond yields 0.875 pct, new U.S. record

* Shares down 2.1 percent (Adds background on comparable low rates)

SEATTLE, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) on Wednesday sold $4.75 billion in new debt, some of it at the lowest U.S. corporate borrowing rate on record, as the world’s largest software company takes advantage of low interest rates to raise cash.

The bonds — due in three years, five years, 10 years and 30 years — are raising money for capital expenditures, share buybacks and acquisitions, among other things, Microsoft said in a filing with securities regulators.

Microsoft sold $1 billion of the three-year notes at a coupon of 0.875 percent, or 25 basis points over comparable Treasuries, according to a source familiar with the offering. That’s the lowest level in U.S. data going back to 1970 compiled by Thomson Reuters/IFR.

It means Microsoft is paying even less in interest than a government-insured savings account. The overnight average yield on a one-year certificate of deposit (CD) is 1.2 pct, according to Bankrate.com.

Blue-chip companies have swarmed to the high-grade corporate debt market this year, taking advantage of historically low funding levels.

But Microsoft struck the lowest coupon yet, beating the previous low mark of IBM’s (IBM.N) 1 percent coupon on an August offering. The next lowest, Hewlett-Packard and Procter & Gamble Co (PG.N), sold three-year debt at 1.125 percent and 1.375 percent respectively this year, according to Thomson Reuters/IFR data.

Microsoft also sold $1.75 billion of its five-year bond at 40 points above comparable treasuries, $1 billion of the 10-year at 55 points above and $1 billion of the 30-year at 83 points above, according to the source.

Microsoft, which has the highest credit ratings from Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, has almost $37 billion of cash on its balance sheet, but as most of that cash is overseas it prefers to borrow money at cheap rates rather than pay taxes to repatriate cash.

The offering comes a day after the company’s board granted permission to issue up to $6 billion of new debt.

On Tuesday, Microsoft raised its quarterly dividend by 23 percent to 16 cents per share, disappointing some investors who had looked for more [ID:nN21191991].

Its shares closed down 2.1 percent to $24.61 on the Nasdaq. (Reporting by Bill Rigby; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Diane Craft)

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