[OPE-L] Growing fears credit boom may implode

From: Alejandro Valle Baeza (valle@SERVIDOR.UNAM.MX)
Date: Tue Mar 15 2005 - 15:17:12 EST

A few days ago Jerry pointed out problems with GM bonds. This seems more
worrying, is not?

Financial Times
By Dan Roberts and David Wighton in New York and Peter Thal Larsen in London
>Published: March 13 2005 21:42 | Last updated: March 13 2005 21:42

Bankruptcy advisers are hiring extra staff amid fears that an end to the
global credit boom could spark a surge in business failures in the US
and Europe.

Unusually loose lending conditions have encouraged record borrowing by
speculative-grade companies, with leveraged buy-outs and debt
refinancing on both sides of the Atlantic generating more than $100bn of
deals in the past eight months.

But last week's fall in the price of US Treasury bonds, coinciding with
signs that bankers are struggling to complete riskier corporate bond
issues, has added to a sense of nervousness in some quarters.

Although corporate default rates remain low, some fear the legacy of
recent private equity buy-outs and hedge fund investments in distressed
debt will be a swath of over-leveraged companies ill-equipped to survive
in less benign conditions.

PwC, the largest corporate recovery adviser, said it was hiring
insolvency specialists in sectors such as retailing, utilities and
telecommunications in preparation for the expected fall-out.

Scott Bok, president of Greenhill & Co, an investment bank specialising
in merger advice and restructuring, also predicts the cycle will end
with a lot of companies in trouble. "In many of the deals being done
today you can foresee the debt restructurings to come in a year or two,"
he said.

Last week, the Financial Stability Forum, a group of national and
international central banks and regulators, pointed to the levels of
liquidity as one of the main risks to the stability of the global
financial system.

Following a meeting in Tokyo, the FSF said that, according to some of
its members, tight credit spreads and low long-term interest rates
suggested some in the market might be underpricing risks. It urged banks
and investors to monitor their exposures by stress-testing what would
happen in the event of a market shock. Chuck Prince, chief executive of
Citigroup, said: "The possibility of a liquidity bubble around the world
concerns me. A very cautionary thing is that it feels like the world is
changing and traditional indices may not give a complete picture." Some
say markets are becoming more nervous. Paul Hsi, a senior analyst at
Moody's, said: "There is a little bit more caution in the market right
now as some of the weaker credits come up with 'me-too' offerings and
investors take a harder look."

Ian Powell, head of European business recovery for PWC, added: "You only
need one of these really big financing deals to go sour and confidence
will evaporate very quickly."

However, investors say the market is more aware of the risks than in
previous credit cycles and that funds are managing their exposure

"People are on 'bubblewatch' since almost every market got burnt in the
last five years," said Stephen Peacher, head of high-yield investment at
Putnam, the fund manager.

"We know that bond prices are certainly not cheap but, given that
default rates are so very low, we feel comfortable that spreads are in a
fair value range."

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