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Count down: high interest rates squeeze companies with EUR 428bn to refinance by 2025

The European leveraged market has a hefty EUR 428bn to be refinanced in the next two-and-a-half years, according to Debtwire data.

This vast amount is putting pressure on borrowers, who are likely to have to refinance debts at rates considerably higher than they originally were. The Eurozone rate for refinancing operations is currently 3.75%, its highest point since 2008, and professional forecasters surveyed by the European Central Bank predict it remaining above 3% until 2025. The case is similar to the Euribor rate, currently at 3.2%, used in floating-rate operations and as a benchmark for fixed-rate offerings.

This scenario is significantly changed from when these high-yield (HY) bonds and institutional term loans were launched. Between 2015 and 2022, the Euribor rate was always below 0%.

Debtwire data also shows the maturity wall peaking in 2026 and 2028, mainly thanks to the expiration of term-loan facilities. TLB volumes coming to maturity in these two years stand at EUR 125.9bn and EUR 178.3bn, respectively.

Considering TLB facilities commonly have a seven-year maturity, a significant part of these deals was printed right before and in the aftermath of the coronavirus (COVID‑19) pandemic, when key ECB interest rates were at 0%.

Recycled debt returns

Analysis of the use of proceeds of deals helps to understand what lies ahead. Debt raised to refinance existing facilities is by far the main use of bonds and loans with maturities up to 2028, accounting for between one-third and half of total outstanding debt each year.

This is followed by leverage buyouts (LBOs), which are prevalent in those deals with maturities further down the line, starting with only 14.5% in 2023, but reaching 31.1% on deals with maturity in 2028. The peak comes seven years after the post-pandemic boom in LBOs, when EUR 82bn was raised following the release of pent-up demand for private-equity acquisitions in 2021.

Data show that issuers of LBO debt are less exposed to near-term maturities. Some EUR 32bn of LBO deals are due to expire over the next six quarters. However, this is less than each of the next four years. In 2028, the LBO volume to mature reaches an eye-watering EUR 81.3bn.

Future debt concentrates into top five countries

When examining the maturity wall by geography, the presence of the five leading countries by market size increases in those deals with maturities further down the line. The top five jurisdictions (the UK, the US, France, Germany and the Netherlands) hold 54.8% of paper with maturity in 2H23 before soaring to 75.9% by 2029.

Within the ‘others’ category, by contrast, riskier countries are currently more exposed to deals with maturities in the next year and a half. This is case with Italy and Spain, which rank as the sixth- and seventh-largest markets, respectively. Italian and Spanish HY bonds and leveraged loans comprise 10.6% and 7.3% of the paper due to 2H23. From this peak of 17.9%, the combined share of both countries falls steadily to 7.74% in deals with maturity in 2028.