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Search for yield boosts hybrid capital

Hybrid capital in all forms is attractive to yield-hungry investors right now, offering sellers good terms even while the straight equity market is closed. But the leading issuers - financial institutions - are concerned about lack of regulatory and accounting clarity.

STRAIGHT EQUITY ISSUERS remained in hibernation this spring but hybrid capital issuers woke up to inviting conditions.

Issuers have found that low interest rates, tightening credit spreads and the continued volatility of the equity market make hybrid products across the spectrum from subordinated debt structures to hybrid convertibles highly attractive. Yield-hungry investors have shown a big appetite for the extra basis points offered by subordinated debt from credits with which they are fundamentally happy. And the strong demand for convertibles from long-starved convertible arbitrage hedge funds has helped issuers get away with some bargain terms.

Siemens, for example, offered a coupon of just 1% and a premium of 46% for its e2.5 billion seven-year convertible on May 22. The issue, managed by Morgan Stanley and UBS Warburg, is the largest European convertible since Fiat's $2.2 billion exchangeable offering into General Motors in December 2001.

In April, Munich Re attracted e6.3 billion of demand for its record-breaking e3 billion 20 non-call 10 subordinated bond, the largest single-tranche subordinated straight ever. It was followed by a slightly upsized £300 million 25 non-call 15 subordinated bond.

Given the conducive market conditions and flurry of recent deals, UBS Warburg estimates that hybrid capital issuance in 2003 could reach e43.1

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