Santander Eyes Expansion in Leveraged Finance, ESG-Linked Debt

Banco Santander SA is expanding its leveraged finance business under Rafael Noya, who took over as head of global debt financing a year ago.

The Spanish bank is broadening its lending to speculative-rated borrowers from its traditional focus on high-grade debt, Noya said in an interview. It’s been building a team to get more high-yield mandates in Europe and the U.S.

“There will be a difference in the size of the deal, but we will have a well-rounded product to play head-to-head in the U.S. market too,” Noya said.

Recent deals include funding the buyout of Spanish telecommunications firm Masmovil Ibercom SA’s by private equity firms KKR & Co., Cinven Ltd. and Providence Equity Partners; financing $3.5 billion of debt for the purchase of portable power generator supplier Aggreko Plc by I Squared Capital Advisors and TDR Capital; along with high-yield bond issues by British Airways’ parent company IAG SA, London’s Gatwick Airport and French retailer Casino Guichard Perrachon SA.

“We can build on the capacity to use the balance sheet in a smart way,” Noya said. “Given the interest rates at a macro level, the activity of the funds and financial sponsors, the amount of resources they’re raising, the size of the liabilities of the CLOs, that the number of CLOs is increasing, this is a very favorable scenario for a strong M&A activity.”

Santander is also investing in securitization, Noya said.

“We have a very powerful platform with an excellent team that in Europe was focused on internal transactions of the bank,” he said. “Now we are going to do it more for our clients, from hedge funds to private equity and companies.”

The bank is also focusing on a fundamental change in credit markets by having strategic discussions with clients about ESG, said Noya.

“Before clients asked ‘how many points in savings am I going to have if I do a green issuance,’ and now it is much more strategic,” he said. “If it’s not green it will not exist.”

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