Companies Are Drawing Down Their Credit Lines And What You Need To Know (#GotBitcoin?)
Companies are starting to draw down credit facilities. Companies Are Drawing Down Their Credit Lines And What You Need To Know (#GotBitcoin?)
While the drawdowns are a precautionary move, they raise a big risk for investors battling through the coronavirus selloff in the stock market. It is what is known as the risk of “procyclicality.”
It is a term that became popularized during the 2008-09 financial crisis. Roughly speaking, it means making decisions that, while sensible for an individual, exacerbate problems for the whole.
If everyone draws on revolving credit lines all at once, the credit system might become stressed. (A revolving credit facility is the corporate equivalent of a home equity line.) S&P 500 companies have about $1 trillion in credit lines. That is a big potential cash call for lenders.
Part of responsible corporate fiscal management, of course, is having ample cash accessible. What’s true for consumers is true for corporations—they have to prepare for credit access before they need it. As anyone ever laid off from a job knows, most of the time, it is possible to borrow money only when you don’t need it. It is harder to get credit when times are tough.
Boeing (ticker: BA) appeared to set off the latest wave of moves. Bloomberg reported that the company drew down its recently created credit facility on Wednesday. Instead of calming nervous investors, the move—along with the viral outbreak and the continuing 737 MAX drama—sent shares plunging.
Boeing stock is down more than 20% over the past two trading sessions, far worse than the comparable drop of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The stock was halted Thursday at one point because of trading volatility. Boeing choose not to comment on individual credit instruments when asked about the revolver.
Private equity giants the Blackstone Group (BX) and Carlyle Group (CG) have encouraged their portfolio companies to do the same and draw down credit lines.
Bloomberg also reports that Wynn Resorts (WYNN) and Hilton Hotels (HTL) are also drawing down credit facilities. Wynn and Hilton were down 12% and 6%, respectively, on Thursday.
One question investors are struggling with is why draw? Shouldn’t the existence of the lines be enough? Why draw and pay interest if the home equity line is already approved?
Companies might draw on facilities because revolving bank debt usually comes with caveats.
Often, companies have to pass earnings and capital tests to qualify for the money. Companies might feel it is better having the money now, despite paying interest, so they can have the money on hand before debt covenants become problematic.
It might be a smart decision for any one corporation, but it is a problem for investors. It signals tough times ahead.
Everything is related to the coronavirus, but Thursday’s stock declines were fueled, in part, by such credit surprises.
In a similar way, Monday’s declines were fed by an oil surprise — Saudi Arabia’s decision to increase output, exacerbating the problem of falling oil prices resulting from weakening demand.
Boeing, for its part, traded at about 8 times estimated 2022 earnings at points on Thursday. It is an incredibly low multiple of earnings for the company, historically speaking. The other problem for investors—along with procyclicality—is time horizon.
Investors can’t see past the next three months as the pandemic continues.
In modern financial theory, the central bank and the federal government are the entities supposed to be acting countercyclically. The Federal Reserve needs to ensure that credit continues to flow. That way, employees get paid and companies avoid layoffs. In fact, markets recovered some of earlier losses after the Fed said it would provide support, adding liquidity to the financial system.
Investors may not like it, but they will have to put their faith in the Fed. The central bank has the wherewithal and the willingness to prevent a credit crunch.
What’s more, in these unprecedented times, investors should expect lenders and borrowers to maintain an open dialogue. Agreements, including adjustments to debt covenant relief, can always be reached
Of course, another other option for having ample liquidity is to have no debt. Berkshire Hathaway (BRK. A), Apple (AAPL), Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL) as well as Microsoft (MSFT) are some notable companies with large cash hoards.
Another Problem for the Fed: Banks Pressured as Clients Scramble for Cash.
A variety of firms are drawing down their lines of credit to cover costs and make payroll as economic headwinds blow.
Companies around the world are drawing down their credit lines at the same time, forcing banks to cough up large sums of money on short notice and further straining a financial industry already hammered by sinking interest rates.
The pressure on banks was highlighted by a rare and dramatic Sunday evening move by the U.S. Federal Reserve, which cut its benchmark interest rate by a full percentage point to almost zero and took a range of actions to support bank lending, including flooding markets with liquidity by ratcheting up its purchases of Treasurys and mortgage bonds.
Shares in Citigroup Inc., JP Morgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America Corp. fell as much as 20% at the market open Monday. The KBW Bank Index was down 34% this year through Friday, more than double the S&P 500’s 16% decline. The biggest U.S. banks separately said on Sunday that they would suspend share buybacks and provide more support to their customers.
Among the companies pulling down their credit lines, U.S. memory chip maker Micron Technology Inc. said Friday it would use the entire $2.5 billion from its revolving credit facility to increase its cash holdings and give it more financial flexibility. In Europe, aircraft-leasing giant Aercap Holdings NV told lenders it would fully draw down a $4 billion unsecured credit line.
Both companies said they borrowed the money as a precautionary measure and not because they are currently facing liquidity strains. Casino operator Penn National Gaming Inc. said in a filing released Monday that it drew down a remaining $430 million from a revolving facility last Friday, while cruise operator Carnival Corp. said it tapped a $3 billion credit line.
Banks routinely sell their corporate customers revolving credit lines that serve as backup in case businesses run into cash crunches. The problem now is that the world-wide patchwork of lockdowns and travel restrictions aimed at containing the coronavirus pandemic is causing a wide variety of businesses to scramble for cash all at once to make payroll and cover operating costs as sales plunge.
“Having the credit lines in place is not the same as having the cash on their books,” said Pramod Shenoi, a former debt capital markets banker who now works at debt research firm CreditSights. “Companies are doing what they can to ensure they have liquidity.”
Goldman Sachs research analysts said late Sunday that the Fed’s latest moves will “give banks greater flexibility in addressing client funding needs.” The overall economic impact remains unclear at this point, they added.
The Fed said its moves were aimed at ensuring the smooth functioning of the markets banks use to fund themselves and support the flow of credit to households and businesses.
In addition to cutting benchmark rates, the Fed slashed the cost of borrowing at its discount window, where banks can pledge corporate bonds and other securities for short-term cash. It said financial institutions can roll over those loans for as long as 90 days and encouraged banks to use the discount window “to meet unexpected funding needs.”
The central bank also eliminated banks’ reserve requirement and encouraged them to dip into their regulatory capital and liquidity buffers to increase lending during the downturn.
“There are signs that the economic damage could be far greater than initially thought, and there is the potential for financial contagion through the banks,” said Neil Shearing, group chief economist at Capital Economics.
Falling government bond yields and interest rates in recent weeks were already damaging financial firms’ ability to profit from traditional banking and lending activities. Banks are now facing growing demands for cash from corporate customers grappling with sliding revenues, store closures and lockdowns of cities and workplaces.
In recent days, a flurry of companies—including electronics manufacturers, hotel operators, airlines and retailers—said they have fully or partially drawn on their revolving credit lines from banks, or they intend to do so as the coronavirus pandemic worsens.
The situation has been exacerbated by a slowdown in fundraising in the bond and stock markets in recent weeks, Mr. Shenoi of CreditSights said. During the global financial crisis more than a decade ago, concurrent attempts by companies to draw down their credit lines also preceded the Fed’s rollout of emergency short-term funding measures.
Back then, the worry among companies was that tightening credit conditions and losses among banks could cause lenders to withhold money down the road.
Some firms also tapped their revolving credit lines when the market for commercial paper—short-term debt that matures in under a year—froze up. The Fed in late 2008 created a temporary backstop facility to purchase commercial paper issued by companies, essentially bypassing banks to lend directly to corporations during that period.
Banks are in much better shape than they were a decade ago, thanks to regulatory efforts since the crisis to strengthen their balance sheets and increase the amount of capital they hold against their assets.
“The banking sector is much more prepared,” said Mr. Shenoi.
He said the Fed and other global policy makers are trying to ensure that there won’t be funding shortages in the coming months.
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