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France puts on a credit spurt

Continental Europe's corporate bond market is expanding and catching up with the US and UK. French banks and issuers are stealing a march on their nearest competitors in the range and sophistication of their issues.

By Helena Frith Powell

Achour and Khayat: agree that the 30-year bond market could provide corporates with a sound source of
long-term money

THIS YEAR HAS been one of the most dynamic for French capital markets that veteran bankers can remember. The trend looks set to continue in 2004. It is characterized by big-ticket deals, an emerging corporate bond market, large equity placements and longer tenors in a sector that boasts almost as much sophistication and liquidity as the more mature markets of the US and the UK.

Frederic Zorzi, head of corporate syndicate at BNP Paribas, says that the markets are in extremely good shape. "It was a crucial year, after the traumas of the last few years like 9/11, the Asian and Russian crisis, along with the Enron and WorldCom scandals," he says. "Because credit fundamentals are sound and companies have kept costs and acquisitions under control, there is still a potential for spreads to go tighter."

Amid the credit and equity market volatility of recent months and years, the emergence of the European corporate capital market - with French issuers to the fore - has been remarkable.

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