J.C. Penney Puts $2B in Loans Up for Sale to Refinance Debt

Struggling retailer J. C. Penney (JCP) is tapping JPMorgan (JPM) investment bankers in an effort to sell roughly $2 billion in sub-investment-grade loans, a person familiar with the deal told Real Money.

Proceeds of the $2 billion loan offering are intended to help J.C. Penney refinance a substantial portion of its debt, which most recently clocked in at $4.73 billion, based on J.C. Penney's quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

JPMorgan bankers are set to host a meeting with investors who specialize in such speculative credit today; the loans have been rated "B1" and "B+" by Standard & Poors and Moody's, respectively, the person said, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks are private. The ratings put J.C. Penney's credit at four notches below investment grade.

The pricing of the so-called leveraged debt offering has initially been set as a floating rate tied to the London Interbank Offering Rate, or Libor, and translates roughly into an annual rate of 5.5%-5.8%, the person wrote in documents obtained by Real Money. This means the retailer will have to shell out more than $100 million per year to service the loans. (J.C. Penney booked $415 million in total interest expenses last year.)

J.C. Penney may be looking to cash in on its recently upgraded corporate rating, which Moody's raised one notch to B3 from Caa1 in February, citing a "solid liquidity profile."

Moody's supported its B3 rating on J.C. Penney, which is four notches below investment grade, in a report citing "high leverage and weak interest coverage," noting J.C. Penney's debt-to-EBITDA was about 6.8x at the end of 2015 as of year-end 2015. 

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