Finance goes American

Here’s an interesting example of a trend we’re seeing in finance – money deals that might in the past have been naturally placed in Europe are moving to other regions. The problem is that European banks are being forced to trim their balance sheets to toughen themselves up against the cold wind of the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis, and also meet forthcoming regulations on debt to capital ratios that are designed to cut the risk of default in the banking industry. More broadly, European banks are struggling against the general global liquidity crunch to raise as much US dollar finance as they’ve been accustomed to working with.

The most visible aerospace implication of these factors to date has been European banks’ cutback of exposure to new airliner finance deals, whereas in recent years it’s been Europe taking the lion’s share of the debt that keeps the aircraft rolling off assembly lines at Airbus, Boeing, et al. The sale of RBS’s aviation business to Mitsubishi in Japan has been the headline example of this trend, but it’s clearly widespread.

Today, though, we learn that Safran – the French aerospace and security technology giant – has successfully gone to the US corporate bonds market to place $1.2 billion of unsecuredc notes with 7-, 10- and 12-year maturities, at coupon rates of 3.7% to 4.43%.

According to Safran:

“This transaction enables Safran to diversify its funding sources at attractive conditions, to lengthen the maturity of its debt profile and to provide long term funding for the acquisitions made in the past 3 years, notably in the US.

“The placement which was made to a broad group of accredited institutional investors demonstrated the confidence that debt investors have in the Group’s strategy and long term development.”

Confidence, for sure – Safran is borrowing much cheaper than several European countries, probably including France. And, it’s inherently a good thing for a company like this to borrow broadly; stable long-term relationships with lenders in a home region are good things, but for borrowers as well as lenders, spreading risk is a wise strategy for the long term.

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