KBC to Follow Barclays’s Lead With Contingent Capital Bond Sale

KBC Groep NV, Belgium’s biggest bank and insurer by market value, plans to sell high-risk capital bonds similar to Barclays Plc’s recent deal that bankers said garnered more than $17 billion of orders.

The 10-year dollar-denominated notes will be written off if KBC has losses that reduce its so-called core Tier 1 capital ratio to 7 percent of assets or lower, according to an investor presentation obtained by Bloomberg News. The Brussels-based lender has capital of 12.7 percent of assets, according to the presentation.

Issuers of debt designed to take losses include Rabobank Groep NV, UBS AG, as well as Barclays, which in November sold $3 billion of bonds that will be written off if capital ratios fall to less than 7 percent. Bonds designed to absorb losses prior to a lender’s collapse are a child of the 2008 financial-sector crisis, when debt investors were repaid while taxpayer cash was used to prop up banks to safeguard the wider economy.

“The idea is to provide both senior creditors and shareholders with an extra layer of protection and enhance the stability of the bank,” said Paul Smillie, a Singapore-based global banking analyst at Threadneedle Asset Management, which oversees about $45 billion of fixed-income securities. “This is a carbon copy of the Barclays deal.”

KBC, which received Belgian bank-rescue funds three times to cushion against declines in the value of collateralized debt obligations and MBIA Inc. insurance coverage of credit risk, is raising money to repay its bailouts. Management also has committed to retaining a Tier 1 ratio of at least 10 percent.

‘Divesting Assets’

KBC spokeswoman Viviane Huybrecht didn’t respond to a call seeking comment.

“That will make it one of the best-capitalized banks in Europe,” said Smillie. “KBC has been divesting assets and deleveraging for quite some time now.”

By selling the Tier 2 bonds in dollars, KBC can appeal to wealthy Asian investors in Hong Kong and Singapore seeking higher-yielding securities.

Standard & Poor’s said today it assigned a BB+ rating, the highest speculative grade, to the proposed securities. The bonds’ equity content is “minimal” and they are designed to allow the lender to continue to operate as a going concern as it seeks to raise money after they are triggered, S&P said.

Barclays 7.625 percent contingent capital notes received a BBB- rating from S&P, one step higher than the KBC securities, and were priced to yield 604 basis points more than the benchmark Treasury bond. They now yield 537 basis points more than the 1.625 percent Treasury due 2022.

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