U.S. companies are rushing into the convertible bond market looking for ways to keep interest costs low, an unprecedented rush in a depressed market for corporate capital. Convertible bond issuance rose 77% last year to $48 billion, according to LSEG. 

This makes it one of the few areas where capital markets will return to pre-pandemic averages after the 2022 market downturn. Experts say the boom in convertible bonds, a type of bond that can be exchanged for stock when a company’s stock price reaches a certain level, is likely to continue this year as companies refinance their maturing debt.

US companies

It has said. These bonds have traditionally been popular with young technology and biotech companies that have difficulty accessing mainstream bond markets. But more established companies are also getting a boost as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates, making borrowing costs higher for investment-grade companies as well. 

“Convertible debt used to be seen as one of those fancy products that investment-grade stocks shied away from,” said Brian Goldstein, who advises companies on convertible debt transactions at Matthews South. talk. “The narrative has changed now that there are a number of well-known issuers entering the market, which are seen as attractive products in their own right.” 

Convertible bonds offer borrowers lower interest rates than traditional bonds without the immediate dilution of shareholders through the sale of new stock. Total issuance in 2023 was below the record highs of 2020 and 2021, when companies took advantage of net-zero interest rates to shore up their balance sheets, but was well above the $34 billion average for the decade ending in 2019. Ta.

This is in stark contrast to the IPO, subsequent stock sales, high-yield bond and leveraged loan markets, where trading volumes remain well below pre-pandemic levels.

The average yield on traditional investment-grade bonds has risen from 2.5% in early 2022 to 5.2% currently, according to BofA`s Ice. The average yield on junk bonds rose from 4.9% to 7.8% over the same period. By comparison, ride-sharing group Uber issued $1.5 billion worth of bonds in November at a yield of under 1%. Michael Youngworth, a bond strategist at Bank of America, said the bonds could lower interest rates by 2.5 to 3 percentage points, and for businesses like Uber to save tens of millions of dollars per year.

US companies

Other companies that have entered the convertible bond market in recent weeks include utility PG&E, which is in the high-end “waste” category, and energy group Evergy, which has investment-grade debt. For both utilities, one of the reasons for issuing the convertible bonds (valued at $1.9 billion and $1.2 billion, respectively) was to pay off non-convertible loans.

U.S. companies will have to pay down $1.26 trillion in debt over the next five years, a 12% increase from the previous five years, according to an October report from the rating agency Moody’s. Each company has $1.87 trillion in bond and loan assets. “Converters will continue to be accepted because there is a big wall of maturity that is about to come down,” said Ken Wallach, co-head of global capital markets at Simpson Thacher & Thacher. “In 2020 and 2021, during the peak of the pandemic, the company offered all of these five-year bonds for lower interest rates.”