The continued weak performance of the equity markets could hit the high-grade credit markets, in the form of credit-damaging leveraged buy-outs, dividends, share buybacks and other shareholder-friendly plans, say bond strategists. And Kirk Kerkorian's recent bid for General Motors shares, for example, speaks to the amount of private equity money on the sidelines waiting to be put to work, noted buy- and sell-siders.
John Tierney, high-grade credit strategist at Deutsche Bank, said LBO risk is spreading from cable and telecom to other sectors, highlighting metals and other commodity-based industries as vulnerable areas. He declined to discuss specific credits at risk. Another strategist remarked smaller-sized firms with lagging stock performance, management issues and the ability to operate following a downgrade are vulnerable to an LBO. "Equity market performance has not been something to rave about and anyone with the potential to do something about that will," he stated.
And investors agree. "If there's a management team shareholders are pissed at, stay away from them," one portfolio manager recommended.