(Bloomberg) -- AbbVie Inc. sold $30 billion of bonds to help finance its acquisition of Allergan Plc as investors flocked to buy a piece of the largest debt sale this year. Demand for the notes was strong with the order book peaking at $77 billion.
The drug maker capitalized on some of the cheapest borrowing costs of the year, with risk premiums over Treasuries at the lowest level since October 2018. That should encourage more borrowers to come forward, with investment-grade syndicate desks projecting another $17 billion in sales this week on top of AbbVie’s expected offering.
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AbbVie’s sale tops the chart as the biggest bond sale this year and it’s the fourth largest of all time. The offering came in 10 parts with the 30-year security yielding 1.90 percentage points above Treasuries, after initially discussing around 2.1 percentage points, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified as the details are private. Investors placed about $77 billion in orders, people familiar with the order book said.
AbbVie agreed to buy Allergan in June for $63 billion in one of the largest pharmaceutical deals this year. It should bring much-needed diversity to the acquirer’s line-up, as AbbVie’s cornerstone drug Humira, which treats arthritis, has been facing more competition, especially in Europe. U.S. antitrust officials are still reviewing the deal, which the companies expect will close early next year.
The deal is expected to take the combined company’s debt to more than three times a measure of its earnings, credit raters have said. Still, Moody’s Investors Service has left its rating on AbbVie unchanged at two levels above speculative grade, as the transaction should generate significant free cash flow. S&P Global Ratings, however, said it will likely cut AbbVie one level to BBB+, three levels above junk.
Read more: Corporations Pile Into Bond Market as Borrowing Costs Drop
Management has reiterated its intention to pay down debt, to achieve a ratio of net debt to Ebitda -- earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization -- of 2.5 times by the end of 2021. Further deleveraging through 2023 is possible, Chief Financial Officer Rob Michael said on an earnings call earlier this month.
Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Corp. and Barclays Plc managed the bond sale, the person said.
--With assistance from Brian Smith.
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