J.P. Morgan and Credit Suisse First Boston launched syndication of a $1.5 billion asset-based refinancing for J.C. Penney & Co. last Tuesday, pitching yet another asset-based deal into the market. Pricing on the three-year BBB-/Ba2 credit is LIBOR plus 13/ 4%, while there is a 1/2% commitment fee. The credit refinances a $1.5 billion unsecured revolver. Asset-based lending has seen a huge rise in the last year as banks seek more security and cash-flow projections remain uncertain, said one banker. Investors also need to put cash to work and there has been a shortage of leveraged loan deals.
The deal was launched after Vanessa Castagna, executive v.p and chief operating officer of J.C. Penney Stores, Catalog and Internet, said in a presentation to analysts that it expects sales to rise 5-6% in the first quarter at stores open for at least a year. The company's goal is 2% annual same-store sales growth from 2002 to 2005. The optimistic view comes after J.C. Penney suffered a string of poor results. The retail chain has eliminated 41,000 jobs over the last two years through store closings and centralized purchasing. A J.P. Morgan spokesman declined to comment and officials at CSFB did not return calls. Robert Cavanaugh, executive v.p. and cfo of J.C. Penney, did not return calls.