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Global borrowers - Best high-yield borrower

Vivendi Universal

Vivendi Universal's claim to be high-yield borrower of the year is based on the fact that it was the first fallen angel in Europe to stabilize its downward credit trajectory and manage to issue as a high-yield name.

For that deal to turn out to be the biggest European high-yield deal to date this year yet still achieve tight pricing is also impressive. The fact that it was the first meaningful corporate issue, which kick-started the European market previously dominated by telecoms deals and LBO financings, was a feat worthy of even more respect. Combine all the challenges together and add the chaser that it was a French issuer trying to sell this deal to US investors four days into the Iraq war and you have something quite remarkable.

"The timing was quite courageous," says Timothy Flynn, head of high-yield capital markets at Goldman Sachs in London, lead bookrunner on the deal alongside Banc of America Securities, JPMorgan, Royal Bank of Scotland and Citigroup. "On the one hand it coincided with firm conditions in the high-yield market. But on the other hand, it was also in the middle of the Iraq war and we were concerned about the impact of anti-French sentiment in the US, especially when we began to hear about French wine being poured down US drains.

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