April 5, 2012 / 4:37 PM / 5 years ago

RLPC-Pernod Ricard refinances 2.5 bln euro loan

LONDON, April 5 (Reuters) - French drinks maker Pernod Ricard has launched a 2.5 billion euro ($3.28 billion) syndicated loan refinancing to replace what is left of the 11.5 billion euro loan it took out to buy Sweden’s Vin & Sprit in 2008.

BNP Paribas and JP Morgan are co-ordinating the loan, which is unusual in that while most corporate revolving credits remain undrawn and used as standby financing, it will be up to 40 percent drawn.

Drawn debt is more expensive for banks’ to fund, so Pernod is offering higher pricing than other investment-grade companies to ensure the support of a wide range of European banks. Pernod benefits from two types of financing - drawn and undrawn - in a single arrangement.

Pricing ranges up to 200 bps if the loan is fully drawn in dollars to mitigate banks’ high dollar funding costs, banking sources said.

“They (Pernod) have done it sensibly. Where the loan is priced, they will be able to keep the large European banks on board,” one banker said.

The loan also has a first-draw utilisation fee which ensures that banks are paid an extra fee from the moment that the loan is drawn down.

The loan, which has been launched to a wide range of banks in a one-step syndication, will provide a pricing benchmark for lower-rated investment-grade companies as European banks chase limited business down the ratings curve.

Pernod is rated BBB- by Standard & Poor‘s, Baa3 by Moody’s and BB+ by Fitch.

The deal is expected to be well received by banks, due to its pricing.

“Pricing is conservative and not aggressive, sensible and realistic,” a senior banker said.

BOND REFINANCING

Pernod cut the size of its 11.5 billion euro loan of 2008 to around 3 billion euros by issuing dollar bonds in 2011 and 2012 which were designed to reduce the company’s reliance on bank loans.

Pernod completed a $2.5 billion bond issue in January 2012, after raising $1 billion and $1.5 billion bonds in April 2011 and October 2011 respectively.

The bonds reduced the 2008 loan to around a third of the company’s overall debt. More than three-quarters of Pernod’s debt is now in the bond market. ($1 = 0.7623 euros) (Reporting by Alasdair Reilly, Tessa Walsh; Editing by Andrew Callus)

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