Bank trio lead $13 billion debt for Blackstone's Thomson Reuters unit bid

LONDON (Reuters) - Banks are lining up a jumbo leveraged financing of around $13 billion to back U.S. private-equity firm Blackstone Group’s potential acquisition of a 55 percent stake in the Financial and Risk business of Thomson Reuters Corp, banking sources said.

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Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citigroup and JP Morgan are expected to lead the debt financing, if the deal goes ahead, with several other banks due to the large size of the underwriting, the banking sources told Loan Pricing Corp.

Thomson Reuters said in a statement late on Monday that “it is in advanced discussions with Blackstone regarding a potential partnership in its F&R business.” The deal values the unit at about $20 billion, consisting of about $7 billion in equity and $13 billion in debt.

The financing is expected to be led from New York and comprise leveraged loans and high yield bonds, denominated mainly in dollars, sources said. It is also expected to include euro tranches, they added.

A $13 billion financing would give leverage of around 7.5 times, based on the last 12-month earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of approximately $1.7 billion for the F&R unit. Senior leverage of roughly 4.5-5.0 times could give a loan of $8 billion to $9 billion, and junior debt of $4 billion to $5 billion, sources said.

Another source familiar with the matter said that leverage was expected to be below 6.0 times.

Although the size of the financing is challenging, liquid banks and investors are eager to lend to new buyouts as the strong level of global demand continues to exceed supply.

“The market capacity for Europe is about 5 billion euros between loans and bonds and in the U.S. is $10 billion-$15 billion, so if there is a big deal that pushes capacity and the business has revenue globally it would make sense to have euro and dollars in loans and bonds to create a competitive dynamic in order to get best execution,” a senior banker said.

It is the largest LBO loan financing since 2013 when ketchup maker HJ Heinz raised a $14.1 billion financing to back its buyout by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital.

Thomson Reuters and Blackstone declined to comment.

Thomson Reuters’ board is expected to meet on Tuesday to discuss Blackstone’s offer for the F&R business, which supplies news, data and analytics to banks and investment houses around the world. The unit contributes more than half of Thomson Reuters’ annual revenues.

Under the terms of the Blackstone offer, Thomson Reuters would retain a 45 percent stake in the F&R business in partnership with the U.S. buyout firm.

Loan Pricing Corp is a unit of Thomson Reuters.

Additional reporting by Davide Scigliuzzo in New York; Editing by Christopher Mangham and Tessa Walsh