"Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and 3G Capital Inc.’s $23 billion acquisition of Heinz may double the company’s total debt to five times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, according to Fitch Ratings, the highest of any comparable food company. The cost to protect Heinz’s debt from losses soared to a record after the announcement. While Buffett has used takeovers to build Berkshire into a $249 billion company and burnish his reputation as the world’s most successful investor, financing the deal with $14.1 billion in debt threatens to strip Heinz of the investment-grade rating that it’s had for four decades. Fitch cut Heinz to junk on Feb. 15 and credit-default swaps imply a Ba1 rating, according to Moody’s Corp.’s capital markets research group. That’s two steps lower than its Baa2 rating from Moody’s Investors Service and three below its BBB+ grade from Standard & Poor’s. The trading “underscores the hazards of high-grade bonds in an active M&A environment,” said Martin Fridson, chief executive officer of research firm FridsonVision LLC. Investors should be aware of the “inherent danger now that leveraged buyouts as well as strategic acquisitions are once again prominent in the financial landscape,” he said." - source Bloomberg.
The cheap credit environment is indeed sufficiently friendly for shareholders in this on-going releveraging process and arguably very unfriendly and painful, to say the least, for the investment grade portfolio manager, given that the LBO story is clearly more favorable to equity investors than credit investors facing multiple downgrades and Profit and Loss hits.
In a recent note by CITI entitled "Ever Been a Better Time for a LBO?" published on the 22nd of February 2013, they argue that the current cheap credit environment makes the pursuit of shareholder-friendly activity quite compelling relative to historical norms:
"Question: If you could buy the exact same company for $75 today (sale price) or for $100 tomorrow (full price), which would you chose?
Answer: Depends. Paying full price may very well be better than paying the sale price if borrowing costs for the two are different. Price is one part of the “package.”
When considering re-leveraging activity, our sense is that many market participants tend to overlook the “package effect,” and as a result under-appreciate the extent to which corporate managers could favor shareholders. In fact, in a sum-of-the-parts context the argument for LBOs may look as compelling as it ever has." - source CITI
As we have also argued in our conversation "Bold Banking", when one looks at the return of Cov-lite loans to the fore front, no doubt to us we are entering, once again bubble territory in the credit space. In May 2012, we specifically discussed this return in our conversation "The return of Cov-Lite loans and all that Jazz...":