NEW YORK, Feb 3 (Reuters LPC) - Octagon Credit Investors issued a new Collateralized Loan Obligation (CLO) with one of the lowest senior spreads seen on a US fund in more than three years as liability costs move lower to counter a repricing wave in the US leveraged loan market and keep CLO issuance on track.
The New York-based manager’s US$611.5m CLO includes a US$390m Triple A slice that pays investors 132bp plus Libor, sources said, one of the lowest Triple A spreads since the third quarter of 2013, when some senior tranches priced at 130bp or lower, according to Thomson Reuters LPC Collateral data.
Spreads have tightened significantly since January 19, when MJX Asset Management raised the first 2017 CLO with a Triple A slice that pays lenders a coupon of 145bp, sources said, and are expected to tighten even more this year.
“I don’t think we get through the post-crisis tights, but I would expect tighter Triple A spreads than we have seen the last two years,” said Brad Rogoff, head of credit strategy at Barclays.
CLO funds, the biggest buyers of leveraged loans, pool loans of different credit quality and sell slices of the deal of varying seniority, from Triple A to B. Their returns are being squeezed as borrowers take advantage of strong investor demand and reprice leveraged loans before expected Federal Reserve interest rate hikes.
More than US$65bn of loans were repriced in January as funds saw more than US$4.1bn of inflows into the asset class during the month, according to Lipper data.
Reducing Triple A spreads makes it easier for CLOs to accommodate lower loan yields. It also limits the hit to CLO junior equity holders’ returns, which would make it harder to issue new CLOs. Banks are expecting a drop in CLO issuance in 2017 to US$50-70bn, down from US$72.4bn last year.
“If you look at loan repricings, they have been substantial, so you need even more tightening in Triple As in order to see more CLO issuance,” Rogoff said.
Triple A Spreads
CLO Triple A spreads finished 2016 at 141bp from as wide as 161bp in June, according to Morgan Stanley data. Before the credit crisis, spreads on the senior slice were as low as 23bp.
Regulatory changes have hit CLO buyers and kept Triple A spreads high for the last few years, Rogoff said. These include the Dodd-Frank Volcker Rule, which prohibits banks from purchasing the debt of CLOs that own bonds and a Federal Deposit Insurance Corp rule, which forced some institutions to pay a higher premium to hold CLO debt.
Although CLO Triple A spreads are falling, the funds still offer a better yield than other similarly rated products. CLO Triple A spreads in the 130bp range compare with similarly rated five-year non-agency commercial mortgage-backed securities at 49bp on January 30, according to Wells Fargo data.
THL Credit Advisors raised a US$612m CLO with Morgan Stanley February 2 that includes a US$390m Triple A slice that pays 134bp plus Libor, sources said. Sound Point Capital Management raised a US$664.3m CLO with MUFG on the same day that includes a US$416m Triple A slice paying 139bp. (Reporting by Kristen Haunss; Editing by Tessa Walsh and Michelle Sierra)