Nycomed Crafts A Buyout, 2009-Style

Nycomed, the Swiss drug company, already has 4 billion euros or so of net debt and some pretty junky single-B credit ratings. But that’s not deterring the private-equity owned outfit from plotting a bid for the drugs business of Belgium’s Solvay, even in these leverage-phobic times. As I wrote earlier:

“Switzerland’s Nycomed plans to draw on buoyant junk bond markets and new cash from its private-equity owners to fund a buyout of Solvay’s drugs unit, people familiar with the matter said.

“Such a structure would allow Nycomed — which already has billions of euros of syndicated loans — to bypass the moribund leveraged loan market and would create a group with some 6 billion euros ($8.6 billion) in yearly sales.”

Nycomed has a few strong cards to play — a track record for integrating acquisitions and quickly paying down debt, owners ready to stump up a billion euros or so of fresh funds, and a solid case for being able to tap both Europe’s recently resurrected junk-bond market and its much larger U.S. counterpart.

And in preferring securities to bank debt, Nycomed is blazing a high-yield trail down a path already well-trodden by investment-grade peers such as Roche, whose buyout of Genentech was underpinned by $30 billion of bonds. Indeed some, including Reuters columnist Alex Smith, sense a “dramatic shift” underway in Europe as bonds fill a vacuum left by vanishing bank loans.