Junk Bonds Rage as Clear Channel Sells Biggest CCC in Months

(Bloomberg) -- Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings Inc. sold $2.235 billion of bonds in the largest triple-C rated deal since September, the latest sign that the U.S. junk-bond market has been roused from its sleep.

The bond sale, rated Caa1 by Moody’s Investors Service and an equivalent CCC+ by S&P Global Ratings, is the largest in the lowest junk ratings tier since Intelsat SA borrowed $2.25 billion through a subsidiary in September. High-yield debt has already proven to be one of the best-performing asset classes in fixed income this year, led by CCC rated bonds that have so far returned just over 6 percent, Bloomberg Barclays index data show.

Junk Bonds Rage as Clear Channel Sells Biggest CCC in Months

The billboard company, through its Clear Channel Worldwide Holdings Inc. unit, issued senior subordinated notes due 2024 in a boosted deal, according to a statement Thursday. The offering, originally set at $2.2 billion, sold at the lower end of the initial price talk, paying a coupon of 9.25 percent.

The deal adds momentum to a junk-bond market that had fallen into a slumber at the end of 2018. Fund inflows have accelerated and new deals are oversubscribed by several multiples. A dovish outlook from the Federal Reserve has boosted demand for fixed-rated assets and risk sentiment overall, propelling the Bloomberg Barclays high-yield index to a record high.

In the week ended Feb. 6, $3.86 billion poured into high-yield bond funds, the largest influx since July 2016, according to Lipper data. New issuance was also met with enthusiasm. CommScope Holding Co. sold $3.75 billion of notes, up from an originally planned $3 billion. Last week, investors bought $3.8 billion of bonds from TransDigm Inc., the largest junk offering since 2016.

Even though Clear Channel managed to price the deal below the upper bound of 9.5 percent, it’s still an expensive issue for the company that’s splitting off from bankrupt parent iHeartMedia Inc. Clear Channel already has a decent cash balance to support near-term liquidity, but the interest costs from the new notes could serve as a bridge to future deleveraging transactions such as asset sales or an equity raise, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Philip Brendel wrote in a note Wednesday.

Read more in Distressed Daily: Clear Channel’s IHeart Split Comes at a Price

Moody’s highlighted a similar potential for divestitures in a Monday note, changing Clear Channel’s outlook to stable from negative. Standing by is the Decaux family, which has been eyeing a post-spinoff Clear Channel to merge it with its own JCDecaux SA, combining the world’s two biggest owners of outdoor billboards.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.