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Loan trading gathers pace

Secondary loan trading has traditionally been seen as rather a dirty business by European financial institutions.

Secondary loan trading has traditionally been seen as rather a dirty business by European financial institutions. Until recently, many banks wouldn't sell any of their loans at all for fear of irritating LBO sponsors who like to know who owns their debt in case they need to reschedule interest payments or change their covenant requirements.


As a result, the number of committed loan traders has been quite small. "Very few banks allocate capital specifically for leveraged loan trading," says Ross Williams, a loan trader at Bear Stearns in London. CIBC, Bear Stearns, Deutsche Bank and CSFB are said to have been the most active traders this year. But over the past 18 months, more and more banks have begun to set up loan trading desks. "It can be a very profitable business," says a loan trader, estimating that a two-man trading team can make $10 million in a good year.


The main reason for this is that lenders are much more nervous about holding loans on their balance sheet than they were in previous years and therefore much keener to sell their loans shortly after syndication. According to one loan trader, more than a quarter of Messer Griesheim's loans - $400 million worth of paper - was being traded in the secondary market within 48 hours of the deal being closed.



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