RJR Nabisco Inc.'s $4 billion "junk-bond" sale, the largest such public offering in history, is selling fast thanks to its attractively high interest rates, Wall Street analysts said Friday.
Friday's offering, part of an $8 billion securities package, is seeing healthy demand from investors, said a spokesman for Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc., lead manager of the issue, although the Securities and Exchange Commission has not yet declared the deal effective."I like it," said Ron Lout, a portfolio manager with Financial Programs Inc. "We bought the coupon bond, which has a lot of value."
Nabisco, maker of Ritz crackers and Oreo cookies, went private last year in a record $24.7 billion leveraged buyout. The company, bought by LBO specialists Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., is now working to pay back the $23 billion it borrowed for the deal.
Junk-bond traders and money managers said the bonds, especially the 13.5 percent debt due 2001, may serve as a bench mark in the nearly $190 billion market for junk bonds, or high-yield securities rated below investment grade.
"RJR is a go-go name," Lout said. "We're committed to buying more RJR securities than we now hold of any other single issuer. We are happy and comfortable with that."
Drexel priced RJR Nabisco's offering late Thursday. Merrill Lynch Capital Markets co-managed the deal. The formal name of the issuer is RJR Holdings Capital Corp.
All of the debt securities are rated B-1 by Moody's Investors Service Inc. and B-plus by Standard & Poor's Corp. Some of the coupons were raised from initially expected levels to attract and win over investors, analysts said.
The mammoth size and complex pricing of the RJR issue drove yields well above the levels Drexel initially expected, analysts said. But while RJR is staging the biggest public offering ever in the junk-bond market, analysts said it would cause only moderate congestion.
"Drexel placed privately $5 billion of RJR debt in the first quarter. That is the largest single issue, public or private, domestic or international," one analyst said.
Still, analysts said few junk bonds would come to market in the next couple of weeks.