France’s Richest Man Gets a Free Lunch From the ECB

LVMH’s bond issue to pay for Tiffany was cheaper than Bernard Arnault’s wildest hopes. Euro credit sales are so hot right now.

By Marcus Ashworth and cross-posted from Bloomberg.

Bernard Arnault, the boss of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, exceeded even his own incredibly low yield expectations in his company’s giant bond sale this week — which included the biggest corporate issue in euros since 2016. The luxury giant raised 7.5 billion euros ($8.3 billion) and 1.55 billion pounds ($2 billion), over a range of maturities from two to 11 years, to help finance its $16 billion purchase of Tiffany & Co.

Two of the five euro tranches were placed at negative yields, meaning investors are paying single A-rated LVMH to borrow money. Arnault’s expectations back in November for yields from the sale of “between 0% and 1%” have been surpassed. Even the 11-year tranche has a coupon of just 0.45%. M&A has never been cheaper.

France’s richest man can thank the European Central Bank for this state of affairs. The restart of its 189 billion-euro Corporate Sector Purchasing Program has driven credit spreads ever lower. While the central bank wants to lessen the funding costs of European companies — and local subsidiaries of global firms — to make it easier for them to invest, it may not have been meaning to help a French luxury behemoth snap up an American jewelry icon.

It’s almost certain that a bond of this size will have been bought by the ECB (or will be picked at some point in the near future). Often the bank takes up to 20% of eligible issues, and there has a been a real paucity of high-quality credit since the Quantitative Easing program kicked back into life

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