Several companies blighted by asbestos liabilities traded up three to four points last week on speculation there would be progress on asbestos legislation. Among the companies that traded up were: Armstrong World Industries, Owens Corning, USG Corp. and W.R. Grace.
Armstrong's debtor-in-possession loan was up four points to 77; Owens Corning's revolver traded as high as 150 from 147; W.R. Grace's revolver traded up three points to the 126-128 range; and USG Corp.'s revolving credit was up four points to 134. Some of the companies' bonds also traded up. Owens Corning's 7.5% '18 bonds increased to 88 1/4 from 83 1/2. Armstrong's 9.75% '08 bonds were up three points to 86, according to the NASD and Markit.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has said that asbestos reform will be the first major piece of legislation to be considered in the Senate in 2006. Republicans and Democrats have tried to come up with a solution to limit companies' exposure to asbestos claims. One solution is the creation of a $140 billion federal asbestos trust fund, which would set a cap on asbestos liabilities. Frist commended the creation of this trust fund in a speech in November. The bill is pending floor action in the Senate, according to a spokesman for Sen. Arlen Specter, who has led the effort for the creation of a trust fund bill. A solution to the asbestos problem has been stalled in Congress because of disagreements over how to fix the problem.