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Mueller Water Plans High-Yield Bond in `Expensive' Market: New Issue Alert

Mueller Water Products Inc., the maker of pipes and valves for water distribution and treatment centers, plans debt as corporate yields hover near record lows.

Mueller Water may sell $225 million of senior notes due in 2020, the Atlanta-based company said in an Aug. 16 statement.

Average yields on corporate bonds reached 4.84 percent yesterday, after touching 4.826 percent this week, the lowest since at least 1997, according to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch U.S. Corporate & High Yield Master Index, which goes back to that year.

Near-zero short-term government interest rates led to a misalignment of risk in sectors of the market like corporate bonds, which have a “huge tailwind,” according to William Larkin of Cabot Money Management in Salem, Massachusetts.

“Yields have gotten so low that a lot of professionals are questioning the viability of the run-up in bond pricing,” said Larkin, who helps manage $500 million in fixed-income assets. “I look at bonds and don’t see how they could get more expensive.”

The extra yield investors demand to own investment-grade debt instead of U.S. Treasuries fell 1 basis point to 188 basis points yesterday, according to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch U.S. Corporate Master Index. Yields fell to 3.83 percent from 3.84 percent, the index showed.

“It’s very likely that we’re going to start to see improving economic data towards the end of the year and into next, and you want to position yourself accordingly,” Larkin said. “Buying in this market is a little dangerous.”

Weekly Sales

Corporate sales fell 60.5 percent to $11.4 billion for the first three days of the week, from $28.7 billion in the similar period last week, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Choice Hotels International Inc., the franchiser of Comfort Inns and Econo Lodges, led yesterday’s sales, issuing $250 million of 10-year notes. The debt yields 310 basis points more than similar-maturity Treasuries, Bloomberg data show.

Proceeds will be used to repay borrowings under a revolving credit line, the Silver Spring, Maryland-based company said in an Aug. 18 regulatory filing.

Spreads on high-yield, high-risk corporate debt decreased 4 basis points to 678 basis points yesterday, according to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch U.S. High Yield Master II Index. Absolute yields fell 4 basis points to 8.51 percent.

High-yield, or junk, bonds are rated below Baa3 by Moody’s Investors Service and BBB- by Standard & Poor’s. A basis point is 0.01 percentage point.

Mueller Water plans to use proceeds to help repay outstanding amounts under its existing credit facilities and related expenses, according to the statement.

S&P assigned the proposed notes a B+ rating, four levels below investment grade. Moody’s ranked them an equivalent B1, saying the company’s “credit metrics will remain weak in through 2011” in the report.

Following is a description of at least $3.98 billion of pending sales of dollar-denominated bonds in the U.S.

Investment Grade

GFI GROUP INC., which matches securities and derivatives trades between banks, plans to sell $250 million of notes due in 2020, according to a ratings statement by Standard & Poor’s. Proceeds will be used to repay $165 million of debt and help finance the acquisition of Kyte Group Ltd. and Kyte Capital Management, S&P said. S&P rated the issue BBB-.

AON CORP., the world’s largest insurance brokerage, plans to sell up to $1.5 billion of senior notes to help finance its acquisition of Hewitt Associates Inc., the Chicago-based company said in an Aug. 16 regulatory filing. Aon may also use proceeds to refinance Hewitt’s existing debt and to pay related expenses, it said in the filing.

DOHA BANK QSC, Qatar’s third-largest bank, may raise as much as $1 billion from bond sales, its chief executive officer said. The money is likely to be raised for five years and is meant to “fix the maturity mismatch” on the bank’s balance sheet, Raghavan Seetharaman said in a June 16 telephone interview from Doha. The bank will sell the bonds in dollars and the local riyal currency, the CEO said in a July 25 interview.

FORETHOUGHT FINANCIAL GROUP INC. plans to sell $150 million of 10-year bonds, according to a person familiar with the transaction, who declined to be identified because terms aren’t set. S&P assigned the notes a grade of BBB- in a March 24 report.

Not Rated

STERICYCLE INC. plans to issue $175 million of seven-year, 3.89 percent notes and $225 million of 10-year, 4.47 percent debt after receiving informal commitments from 22 institutional investors to buy the securities, it said in a statement distributed by Business Wire.

High Yield

MUELLER WATER PRODUCTS INC., the maker of pipes and valves for water distribution and treatment centers, plans to sell $225 million of senior notes due in 2020. The Atlanta-based company plans to use proceeds to help repay outstanding amounts under its existing credit facilities and related expenses, Mueller Water said in a statement distributed by Business Wire. Standard & Poor’s assigned the notes a B+. Moody’s Investors Service ranked them B1.

UNIVERSAL HEALTH SERVICES INC., the operator of more than 100 U.S. medical facilities that’s buying Psychiatric Solutions Inc., cut its offering of senior unsecured notes to $250 million, according to a person familiar with the transaction. It increased the size of the term loans it’s seeking by $100 million, said the person, who declined to be identified because terms aren’t set. The King of Prussia, Pennsylvania-based company previously planned to issue $400 million of senior unsecured debt to help finance the acquisition, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

E-LAND FASHION CHINA HOLDINGS LTD, the Hong Kong-based apparel products provider, hired Morgan Stanley to help it sell $200 million of three-year bonds, according to a person familiar with the matter. The company plans to begin meeting with investors in Asia, Europe and the U.S. on July 19, said the person who declined to be identified because terms aren’t set. Moody’s Investors Service assigned the proposed notes a Ba2, citing growing personal consumption in China, E-Land Fashion’s moderate scale and significant business volatility. Proceeds will be used for mainly for capital expenditures and general corporate purposes, Moody’s said in the report.

Offerings in Pipeline

AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL GROUP INC., the insurer that’s majority owned by the U.S., may sell bonds to help repay its government bailout, it said in an Aug. 9 registration statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

GATX CORP., a Chicago-based company that leases railroad cars and other equipment, filed a shelf registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission to sell debt securities and pass-through certificates. The debt securities may be senior or subordinated, according to the filing.

JSW STEEL LTD, India’s third-largest steelmaker, plans to dollar bonds for the first time in three years and as rupee- denominated finance costs rise. JSW has applied for credit ratings before a possible offshore bond sale to help build a 200 billion rupee ($4.3 billion) steel and power plant in West Bengal, Chief Financial Officer Seshagiri Rao said.

ARGENTINA may sell $1 billion of bonds due in 2017 by the end of August, El Cronista newspaper reported, without saying how it obtained the information. The government is also planning to offer an exchange for dollar bonds due in 2011 and 2012, the Buenos Aires-based publication said.

RURAL ELECTRIFICATION CORP., India’s state-owned lender to power projects, may sell as much as $300 million of bonds denominated in U.S. dollars, Finance Director Hari Das Khunteta said in a telephone interview. Rural Electrification plans to raise $500 million from debt sales in the period, he had said on April 16.

THE PHILIPPINES hired eight banks to help arrange the sale of 10-year bonds, which may also include five- and seven-year issues, Treasurer Roberto Tan wrote in a mobile-phone message. The Philippines is also preparing to seek central bank approval for a planned sale of new dollar-denominated debt to exchange for older, shorter-dated notes, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said on August 2.

UKRAINE may sell bonds in the international capital markets, according to Dragon Capital, the former Soviet republic’s biggest brokerage. The government may sell $1.5 billion to $2 billion of 10-year, dollar-denominated debt with a yield of 7 percent to 7.5 percent after getting approval for a new International Monetary Fund loan and having its credit rating raised by Standard & Poor’s, said Olena Bilan, Dragon’s chief economist, at a press briefing in Kiev on July 30.

CZECH REPUBLIC plans to sell as much as $2 billion of dollar bonds to diversify from koruna and euro debt, Eduard Janota, former finance minister, said in an interview for Mlada Fronta Dnes newspaper.

POTASH CORPORATION OF SASKATCHEWAN INC., the world’s largest fertilizer company by capacity, filed a registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for $2 billion of debt securities.

INDONESIA plans to name three banks to help it sell approximately $650 million of Islamic bonds in October, Dahlan Siamat, director for Islamic financing at the finance ministry, said in a telephone interview in Jakarta. The government sold its first international Islamic dollar bonds in April 2009.

CORPORACION FINANCIERA DE DESAROLLO SA, Peru’s state development bank known as Cofide, plans to sell as much as $250 million of dollar-denominated bonds, according to Chief Financial Officer Carlos Linares. Linares said in an interview in Lima, that the lender is selling long-term debt as it boosts lending to local infrastructure projects. “Peru’s need for infrastructure is huge,” Linares said. “The government is trying to promote foreign investment in a long list of projects.”

SRI LANKA hired HSBC, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Royal Bank of Scotland to sell $1 billion of bonds, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka said on its website on Aug 12.

JORDAN plans to sell about $500 million of bonds, Finance Minister Mohammad Abu Hammour said in an interview on June 23. The sale will be denominated in U.S. dollars “as it’s a stable currency and the Jordanian dinar is pegged to it,” Abu Hammour said.

URUGUAY may sell as much as $1 billion of bonds in 2011, including $500 million of dollar-denominated debt, Carlos Steneri, director of public credit at Uruguay’s Ministry of Economy and Finance, said June 3 at a LatinFinance conference in London. The dollar-denominated bonds may have a maturity of 20 years or more, Steneri said.

MALAYSIA plans to raise about $1 billion from its first sale of conventional dollar bonds in eight years after drawing bids for five times the Islamic debt it offered, a finance ministry official said. The government may hire the same banks, including CIMB Group Holdings Bhd. and HSBC Holdings Plc, to arrange the sale by Sept. 30, said the official, who declined to be named as the discussions are private. Malaysia raised $1.25 billion from a Shariah-compliant dollar bond on May 27. Malaysia is rated A3 by Moody’s and A- by S&P.

SABIC CAPITAL, a unit of Saudi Basic Industries Corp., will sell bonds when market conditions and rates are favorable, its vice president for corporate finance Mutlaq al-Morished told al- Arabiya television in Dubai on June 16. Sabic delayed a bond sale because of unfavorable spreads, al-Morished said in a May 26 telephone interview. Sabic Capital had hired HSBC Holdings Plc, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc to manage a benchmark-sized offering.

GHANA is considering selling its second dollar bond in 2011 to tap investor demand as the start-up of oil production boosts economic growth and narrows the budget deficit, Deputy Finance Minister Fifi Kwetey said. The government is considering a “no- deal roadshow” to gauge international investors’ appetite, Kwetey said in a May 26 interview in Abidjan. Ghana sold its first global bond in 2007, raising $750 million to help fund the construction of roads and power plants.

ANGOLA received credit ratings from Moody’s, S&P, and Fitch Ratings that put it on par with Nigeria, Lebanon and Belarus, and paved the way for a planned sale of international bonds. The southern African nation’s creditworthiness was rated at B+ by S&P and Fitch, four levels below investment grade. Moody’s assigned an equivalent ranking of B1.

EURASIAN NATURAL RESOURCES CORP., a London-based iron ore and alumina producer with operations in China and Russia, said it delayed its first dollar bond sale. The company is “postponing meetings with investors regarding a potential bond issuance under its Euro Medium Term Note program until further notice,” Charlotte Kirkham, a spokeswoman for ENRC, said in an e-mail. The company had hired Deutsche Bank AG and Morgan Stanley to manage the sale, according to a person familiar with the transaction.

BANK FOR INVESTMENT & DEVELOPMENT OF VIETNAM received approval from the central bank to issue 7 trillion dong ($369 million) of notes and another 3 trillion dong of dollar- denominated notes in 2010, according to a statement on State Bank of Vietnam’s Web site.

BOLIVIA plans its first international bond sale in more than 70 years as early as the end of 2011, Finance Minister Luis Arce said. He didn’t disclose the size of the offering.

POWER SECTOR ASSETS AND LIABILITIES MANAGEMENT CORP. of the Philippines may sell between $750 million and $1.5 billion of dollar-denominated bonds “anytime” to help refinance maturing debt, Vice Chairman Jose Ibazeta said. The company manages the finances of state utility National Power Corp.

BRISBANE AIRPORT CORP., owner of Australia’s third-busiest airport, may sell bonds in the U.S. as it pursues new markets to help refinance debt and pay for a new runway. The company is considering a 10- or 15-year U.S. private placement and a five- to seven-year Australian dollar bond sale in late 2010 or early 2011, Chief Financial Officer Tim Rothwell said in a phone interview from Brisbane.

VIETNAM NATIONAL COAL-MINERAL INDUSTRIES GROUP, the state- owned coal producer known as Vinacomin, plans to sell as much as $500 million of bonds overseas to fund mining and energy projects, according to Deputy Chief Executive Officer Nguyen Van Hai.

FINLAND may sell five-year bonds denominated in dollars, the Finnish Treasury said in a document posted on its Web site.

MONGOLIA plans to raise $500 million selling bonds in 2010 and the remainder of a planned $1.2 billion program will be sold according to market conditions, Batbayar Balgan, director general of the financial and economic policy department of Mongolia, said at a forum in Ulan Bator on June 16. The government scaled back its plans for global bond sales after Europe’s debt crisis drove up borrowing costs. Investment banks are advising Mongolia to issue debt with maturities of 5 years to 10 years, Bayartsogt said in a Feb. 9 interview. The securities may yield 8 percent to 11 percent, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Katie Evans in New York at kevans28@bloomberg.net.

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