Dell Takes Center Stage After $74 Billion Global Bond Bonanza

Investors who gobbled up $74 billion of corporate bonds sold by blue-chip companies in the U.S and Europe in the busiest week since January, should get ready for another deluge of debt sales.

Next week Dell Inc. may sell more than $16 billion of notes in the investment-grade bond market to fund its buyout of EMC Corp. That would make it the second-largest corporate bond sale this year after Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s $46 billion deal in January that backed its purchase of SABMiller Plc.

The computer maker isn’t the only prominent issuer expected to tap debt markets soon. Apple Inc. may sell bonds for the third time this year as the iPhone maker raises debt as a means to return capital to its shareholders, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Dell’s offering will be another test of market health, said David Brown, head of global investment-grade credit at Neuberger Berman. “It’s going to be a bit of a benchmark for showing us the overall strength of the credit market,” he said.

Cash flush investors continue to chase higher returns in company debt. Funds that purchase investment-grade bonds saw inflows of $1.13 billion this week, the tenth straight week of deposits, according to Lipper US Fund Flows data. The average yield on bonds sold by top-rated U.S. companies is 3.09 percent, close to a one year low, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch index data.

Apple chief financial officer Luca Maestri said on an April 26 conference call that the company would continue to access debt markets to fund shareholder rewards.

Fewer Mergers

While issuance will be dominated by Dell’s takeover financing, bond sales for mergers won’t reach last year’s levels amid more regulatory scrutiny and increased volatility, Barclays analysts led by Shobhit Gupta wrote in a note on Friday. The bank reduced its forecast for 2016 bond issuance from U.S. industrial companies to $625 billion from $685 billion.

A string of M&A deals that may have required debt financing have been scuttled so far this year. Staples Inc. and Office Depot Inc. terminated a merger plan on May 10 after a federal judge blocked the deal.

Still, M&A-related bond issuance remains strong, although Dell may be the largest deal of its kind for a while, said Jon Duensing, a portfolio manager at Amundi Smith Breeden. He expects the pace of acquisitions to slow down going forward.

“There are a handful of transactions on the horizon that are expected to be large but maybe not as large as the Dell transaction,” Duensing said

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