The Syndication Process

Before awarding a mandate, an issuer might solicit bids from arrangers. The banks will outline their syndication strategy and qualifications, as well as their view on the way the loan will price in market. Once the mandate is awarded, the syndication process starts. The arranger will prepare an information memo (IM) describing the terms of the transactions. The IM typically will include an executive summary, investment considerations, a list of terms and conditions, an industry overview, and a financial model. Because loans are unregistered securities, this will be a confidential offering made only to qualified banks and accredited investors. If the issuer is speculative grade and seeking capital from nonbank investors, the arranger will often prepare a “public” version of the IM. This version will be stripped of all confidential material such as management financial projections so that it can be viewed by accounts that operate on the public side of the wall or that want to preserve their ability to buy bonds or stock or other public securities of the particular issuer (see the Public Versus Private section below). Naturally, investors that view materially nonpublic information of a company are disqualified from buying the company’s public securities for some period of time. As the IM (or “bank book,” in traditional market lingo) is being prepared, the syndicate desk will solicit informal feedback from potential investors on what their appetite for the deal will be and at what price they are willing to invest. Once this intelligence has been gathered, the agent will formally market the deal to potential investors. The executive summary will include a description of the issuer, an overview of the transaction and rationale, sources and uses, and key statistics on the financials. Investment considerations will be, basically, management’s sales “pitch” for the deal. The list of terms and conditions will be a preliminary term sheet describing the pricing, structure, collateral, covenants, and other terms of the credit (covenants are usually negotiated in detail after the arranger receives investor feedback).

The industry overview will be a description of the company’s industry and competitive position relative to its industry peers.

The financial model will be a detailed model of the issuer’s historical, pro forma, and projected financials including management’s high, low, and base case for the issuer. Most new acquisition-related loans are kicked off at a bank meeting at which potential lenders hear management and the sponsor group (if there is one) describe what the terms of the loan are and what transaction it backs. Management will provide its vision for the transaction and, most important, tell why and how the lenders will be repaid on or ahead of schedule. In addition, investors will be briefed regarding the multiple exit strategies, including second ways out via asset sales. (If it is a small deal or a refinancing instead of a formal meeting, there may be a series of calls or one-on-one meetings with potential investors.) Once the loan is closed, the final terms are then documented in detailed credit and security agreements. Subsequently, liens are perfected and collateral is attached. Loans, by their nature, are flexible documents that can be revised and amended from time to time. These amendments require different levels of approval. Amendments can range from something as simple as a covenant waiver to something as complex as a change in the collateral package or allowing the issuer to stretch out its payments or make an acquisition.

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