ECB Said to Buy Volkswagen Securities in Second Day of Purchases

Will Draghi's Corporate Bond Buying Deliver Benefits?
  • Central bank said to buy German carmaker’s bonds due in 2019
  • Mario Draghi also said to buy notes from Continental, Orange

The European Central Bank bought corporate bonds in euros for a second day as it expanded its stimulus program for the region’s flagging economy.

Purchases included securities issued by troubled German carmaker Volkswagen AG due in 2019, those of tiremaker Continental AG and of French mobile company Orange SA, according to a person familiar with the matter, who’s not authorized to speak about it and asked not to be identified. The ECB bought bonds from sectors including chemicals, infrastructure, autos and utilities, said two other people familiar with the acquisitions.

ECB President Mario Draghi is casting his net as wide as the bond-buying program allows to ensure it makes an impact. He started purchasing notes on Wednesday from a range of companies across the euro region with as little as a single investment-grade rating, helping push the average yields to 0.98 percent, the lowest in more than a year, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch index data.

“It seems that as long as bonds fit the ECB’s criteria, they’re going to buy them,” said Andrew Lake, London-based head of fixed income at Mirabaud Asset Management which oversees about 8.5 billion Swiss francs ($8.8 billion). “It looks like they are committed to the purchases, especially given that some of the buying has dipped into complex high-yield names.”

Yields Fall

Yields on bonds of companies targeted by the ECB dropped, with those of Continental’s 750 million euros of securities due 2018 falling to a record 0.1 percent. Yields on Volkswagen’s 1.25 billion euros 3.25 percent notes maturing in 2019 fell to a more than one-year low of 0.4 percent, while those on Orange’s 1.5 billion euros of bonds due 2033 declined to a record, Bloomberg data show.

The ECB’s announcement in March that it planned to buy bonds had already triggered a drop in yields and investors were concerned that the market’s reaction was priced in, Owen Murfin, a money manager at BlackRock Inc., said at a press briefing in London. The ECB will be encouraged by the response to its purchases, he said.

The first day of acquisitions included notes from Telecom Italia SpA, according to people familiar with the matter, who aren’t authorized to speak about it and asked not to be identified. Italy’s biggest phone company has speculative-grade ratings at both Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings. The company’s bonds only qualify for the central bank’s purchase program because Fitch Ratings ranks it at investment grade.

AB InBev, Siemens

On Wednesday, the central bank also bought notes from Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, the world’s largest brewer; Siemens AG, Europe’s biggest engineering company; French automaker Renault SA; and utilities Engie SA and RWE AG, according to people familiar with the sales.

“He is using all the powers that he said he would use,” said Luke Hickmore, an Edinburgh-based senior investment manager at Aberdeen Asset Management Plc, which oversees about 291 billion pounds ($421 billion). “VW is a name you could interpret either way. Its inclusion is a clear message that this is a very big program that he’s determined to work.”

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