Asian Fever & Chills

Aug 1, 2006

Asian individual investors are a rich new financing source for Latin American credits as wealth continues to build in the East.

When Brazilian electric power utility Companhia Força e Luz Cataguazes Leopoldina tried and failed to sell a perpetual bond directed at Asian retail investors a few months back, it appeared as if Latin American issuers may have overstayed their welcome with this relatively new and promising investor base. "The market just went away. The window closed," says Augusto Urmeneta, a director in Merrill Lynch's capital markets group who worked on the deal. With indications of higher interest rates in the US and other developed economies, investors the world over were turning their backs on emerging market instruments to instead buy safer bets, like US Treasuries.

Yet by adjusting the offer to a 7-year, $250 million bond aimed at institutional investors with a 10.5% coupon, the Cataguazes deal was able to price in mid-July at 565 basis points over US Treasuries. About a third of the demand for the...

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