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High-yield debt securities versus bank loans
Discuss the major differences between high-yield debt securities and bank loans in your jurisdiction. What are some of the critical advantages and disadvantages?
As in many other jurisdictions, securities offerings in Brazil (including high-yield debt securities) are regulated by securities laws, whereas bank loans are regulated by specific banking regulations.
The offering of debt securities in the local market can take a wide range of structures in Brazil depending on specific characteristics of the offering, such as number of investors involved, term of the transaction and registration of the transaction with local securities authorities, among others. Typically, such transactions are implemented either through (i) a public offer duly registered with the Brazilian Securities Commission (CVM) under CVM Instruction No. 400, or (ii) a restricted public offer under CVM Instruction No. 476. See question 6 for more information on the differences between public registered offerings and restricted offerings of debt securities in Brazil.
Typically, offerings of debt securities are implemented through the use of debentures (medium or long-term offerings) or commercial papers (short-term transactions). Such instruments are similar to a bond used in international transactions, and are fixed-income debt securities that represent a fraction of a credit held by an investor.
The natural advantage of issuing and offering debt securities, especially in the case of a public offer under CVM Instruction No. 400, is the access to a wide and diverse number of investors, consequently increasing the chances of obtaining longer tenures and lower interest rates when compared with standard bank loans.
On the other hand, in addition to the increased costs of structuring a securities offering in Brazil when compared with bank loans, securities laws and regulations also impose specific liability and disclosure obligations both on issuers and underwriters, which must be carefully reviewed and considered by all involved parties during the structuring of offering procedures.
Are you seeing increased regulation regarding either high-yield debt securities or bank loans in your jurisdiction?
There has not been a recent increase of regulation specifically regarding high-yield debt securities, but the CVM is constantly reviewing and detailing the obligations of issuers of securities in general, especially those related to disclosure requirements.
Considering the recent corruption scandals in Brazil, local regulators are currently focusing on know-your-customer and enhanced due diligence practices, and both lenders and underwriters are requiring increased detailed information regarding their clients. Further, in the case of underwriters, higher scrutiny and due diligence questions from high-yield debenture investors themselves are also being observed (with reflections in the representations, covenants and acceleration provisions set forth in the bond documentation).
Current market activity
Describe the current market activity and trends in your jurisdiction relating to high-yield debt securities financings.
Currently, in light of the high demand for infrastructure financing in the local market, we have seen companies relying on the debt capital markets (local and international) in order to meet their funding needs and requirements. In this regard, issuers that hold infrastructure projects in sectors such as telecoms, transportation and energy (generation, transmission and distribution) have implemented relevant debt offerings over the past years.
Governmental-controlled entities (such as Petrobras, Cemig and the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES)) have also recently relied on the international bond market for different reasons, such as debt restructuring, funding for local priority projects and extension of term of debt obligations, among others.
It is usual in local transactions (especially those involving project financing) for investors or lenders to request 0a comprehensive collateral package from the issuer or borrower (equity, equipment, real estate, receivables). Even though in past international transactions that was not the case, there have been recent bond offerings (such as those involving entities in the agribusiness sector) in which the issuer agreed to grant the investors guarantees.
Identify the main participants in a high-yield debt financing in your jurisdiction and outline their roles and fees.
A public offering of debentures typically involves several participants with different roles and it must necessarily involve at least one financial institution duly registered with the Central Bank of Brazil and the CVM to act as underwriter. Usually, local underwriters are licensed to operate as investment banks, brokerage firms or multi-service banks, and their main responsibilities are essentially the same as those in other jurisdictions such as the United States and the United Kingdom. They include:
- structuring the offer and assisting the issuer during all registration processes;
- marketing the securities and assisting the issuer with the interactions with potential investors; and
- reviewing the offer documentation and assuring the completeness and accuracy of the information provided to investors.
For the rendered services, the underwriters usually receive a commission fee calculated as a percentage of the debentures’ total issued and subscribed price.
Issuers and underwriters are also assisted by lawyers and accountants during the preparation of the offering documents and the registration process with the CVM, where lawyers usually perform a legal due diligence and provide a legal opinion, and accountants issue a comfort letter regarding the disclosed accounting information of the issuer.
Investors, in turn, are typically represented by a trustee, who is responsible for controlling the flow of information between the issuer and investors, as well as executing all required documents on their behalf. In the case of a secured transaction, the investors are usually assisted by a security agent as well, responsible for the supervision and enforcement of collateral.
Finally, although having rating agencies is not mandatory in public offerings in Brazil, their involvement is usual in high-yield securities offerings, as they play an important role in assessing the issuer’s ability to meet its financial obligations under the transaction.
Describe any new trends as they relate to the covenant package, structure, regulatory review or other aspects of high-yield debt securities.
Covenant packages may vary depending on the financial situation of the issuer, its envisaged projects and specific industry trends. More recently, however, in view of corruption scandals in Brazil involving bribe payments to government officials, investors and underwriters tend to apply greater scrutiny when reviewing compliance and ethics practices in all industries, but especially those which typically conduct business with public governments and entities.
Although it is a trend not specific to high-yield bonds, but a standard reflected in all corporate transactions during the last few years, we have seen detailed clauses with lengthy representations and warranties regarding compliance practices and standards, as well as increased legal due diligence requirements in relation to agreements involving public companies and governments.
How are high-yield debt securities issued in your jurisdiction? Are there particular precedents or models that companies and investors tend to review prior to issuing the securities?
Local securities laws contain provisions on the nature, scope and requirements regarding public offerings, and there is no legal definition as to what constitutes a private placement.
As briefly explained above, there are two modalities of public offerings: (i) public offerings in the broad sense, covered by CVM Instruction No. 400, which require prior registration (of the issuer and the offer itself) with the CVM; and (ii) restricted public offerings, covered by CVM Instruction No. 476. It is not necessary for the latter to be registered with the CVM, as the offering is directed only to a limited number of professional investors.
There is a broad set of rules and regulations governing registered public offerings of securities. Such rules not only establish the types of companies that can access the market with these offerings (ie, listed corporations), but also contain provisions related to (i) procedures for offerings registrations; (ii) minimum documentation involved in any offer; (iii) disclosure requirements and information that must be informed to investors by those involved in the offer; (iv) definition of public offer; and (v) sanctions that may be applied in case of breaches of securities laws, among others.
In the case of restricted public offerings, it is not necessary for the companies to be registered with the CVM and the offering itself does not need any registration with such authority. Nevertheless, the communication of the offering’s characteristics is mandatory. Disclosure material can be prepared, although it is not necessary. Furthermore, restricted public offerings have some limitations, such as the type of investors that may acquire the securities and the number of investors that can participate in the offer (up to 75 investors for selling efforts and no more than 50 may purchase the securities). They are directed only to professional investors, such as investment funds, financial institutions and other institutions authorised to operate by the Central Bank of Brazil, insurance companies, capitalisation companies and investors with investment portfolios exceeding 10 million reais.
Maturity and call structure
What is the typical maturity and call structure of a high-yield debt security? Are high-yield securities frequently issued with original issue discount? Describe any yield protection provisions typically included in the high-yield debt securities documentation.
Although there is no clear rule and maturities can vary from one issuance to another, high-yield securities issued in the local market usually have maturities that vary from five to 10 years and might contain optional redemption provisions granted to the issuer.
To assure a yield protection to investors for a significant period, such optional redemption provisions are typically structured with a non-call period, preventing the issuer from redeeming the debentures for a predetermined number of years, and it is uncommon to have exceptions to such non-call period. In addition, where the issuer decides to redeem the debentures after such non-call period, it is usually required to pay investors a premium that decreases during the tenure of the debentures.
How are high-yield debt securities offerings launched, priced and closed? How are coupons determined? Do you typically see fixed or floating rates?
Although public registered offers have more formal processes and regulatory requirements than restricted offers, both procedures tend to follow substantially similar paths for launching, pricing and closing, with the delivery of a disclosure package (which is optional in case of restricted offerings) to investors and roadshow presentations. After the roadshow, the bookbuilding takes place and, based on investors’ demand, pricing is finalised together with the execution of the underwriting agreement between the issuer and the underwriters.
Closing usually takes place on the third business day after pricing and is normally preceded by a bring-down due diligence call to confirm there have been no material changes since the execution of the underwriting agreement.
Finally, the majority of the high-yield bonds issued locally have a fixed coupon applied to a floating rate (usually the Certificado de Depósitos Interbancários), and such coupon varies depending on factors that vary from market conditions, investors’ aversion to risk and the financial situation of the issuer and its industry prospects.
Describe the main covenants restricting the operation of the debtor’s business in a typical high-yield debt securities transaction. Have you been seeing a convergence of covenants between the high-yield and bank markets?
High-yield bonds issued locally usually contain an extensive list of financial and negative covenants restricting the issuer’s ability to incur additional indebtedness or grant liens. Some examples of such covenants are restrictions on:
- the payment of dividends above the minimum required by law and the issuer’s articles of association;
- the sale, lease or disposal of material assets;
- merger or consolidation with other entities;
- change of control;
- cross-default and cross-acceleration; and
- transactions with affiliates.
Most covenants are not limited to the issuer itself, and also include restrictions that shall be observed by its relevant subsidiaries or controlling entities.
Are you seeing any tightening of covenants or are you seeing investor protections being eroded? Are terms of covenants often changed between the launch and pricing of an offering?
With the recent financial crisis in Brazil and investors’ aversion of risk, it is fair to say we have seen a tightening of covenants during the past few years.
Such covenants, however, may be extensively negotiated between the issuers and underwriters before launching the offer, and it is uncommon to have covenants renegotiated between launch and pricing.
Are there particular covenants that are looser or tighter, based on a particular industry sector?
Covenants are usually looser or tighter depending on the financial situation of the issuer itself, and not related to its specific industry sector.
In the past few years, however, industries that typically enter into agreements with public entities in Brazil have been subject to tightened scrutiny and covenants due to recent corruption scandals involving government officials.
Change of control
Do changes of control, asset sales or similar typically trigger any prepayment requirements?
Changes of control and asset sales are usually negative covenants that, if triggered, will result in an event of default and the standard acceleration of the debt by the issuer.
It is not usual to have specific prepayment requirements or different redemption amounts triggered by a change of control.
Do you see the inclusion of ‘double trigger’ change of control provisions tied to a ratings downgrade?
Although such structure exists in some indentures, ‘double trigger’ change of control provisions are not standard market practice in high-yield debenture issuances, and a mere change of control will typically result in the acceleration of the debt regardless of whether it results in a ratings downgrade.
Is there the concept of a ‘crossover’ covenant package in your jurisdiction for issuers who are on the verge of being investment grade? And if so, what are some of the key covenant differences?
No. Customarily, in the securities market, a covenant package is negotiated for the entire tenure of the high-yield debenture, and it is not common to see a crossover covenant package with covenant differences.
Describe the disclosure requirements applicable to high-yield debt securities financings. Is there a particular regulatory body that reviews or approves such disclosure requirements?
As previously mentioned, the CVM is the entity responsible for issuing securities regulations and overseeing the securities market, and disclosure requirements vary if the offer is a public registered offer or a restricted offer.
Registered public offerings under CVM Instruction No. 400 must contain detailed offering documents with all information needed for investors to analyse the terms and risks of the offering, including a prospectus, which shall be reviewed and authorised by the CVM.
Currently, the CVM has a partnership with ANBIMA, an association of financial and capital markets entities, in order to expedite registered debenture offering procedures. Through such partnership, ANBIMA is responsible for reviewing offering documents and only after ANBIMA is satisfied with the documents they submitted are they subjected to the CVM for its approval of the public offering.
In the case of restricted public offerings, a summarised offering document might be delivered to investors with the main terms and risk factors of the offer, but no CVM registration is required.
Use of proceeds
Are there any limitations on the use of proceeds from an issuance of high-yield securities by an issuer?
There are no specific limitations on the use of proceeds from and issuance of high-yield securities when compared with standard debt securities.
In both cases, however, the issuer must describe to investors how the proceeds from the offer will be used in its respective indenture.
Restrictions on investment
On what grounds, if any, could an investor be precluded from investing in high-yield securities?
High-yield debentures do not contain any specific restrictions precluding investors from investing them.
Nevertheless, as previously discussed in question 6, there are specific regulatory limitations depending on the type of offering. Public registered offers are typically directed to a wide range of individuals, but restricted offers under CVM Instruction No. 476 can only be distributed to professional investors, such as investment funds; financial institutions and other institutions authorised to operate by the Central Bank of Brazil, insurance companies, capitalisation companies and investors with investment portfolios exceeding 10 million reais.
Are there any particular closing mechanics in your jurisdiction that an issuer of high-yield debt securities should be aware of?
No, there are no particular closing mechanisms in the Brazilian jurisdiction that an issuer of high-yield securities should be aware of.
Guarantees and security
Outline how guarantees among companies in a group typically operate in a high-yield deal in your jurisdiction. Are there limitations on guarantees?
High-yield debenture offerings might have different guarantees among companies of the same group and can include upstream, downstream or cross-stream guarantees.
Typically, such guarantee structure will depend on the credit-risk assessment made by the underwriters and will reflect the financial situation of the issuer itself and the corporate group as a whole, as well as other collateral packages that might be granted to secure the financial obligations resulting from the offer.
What is the typical collateral package for high-yield debt securities in your jurisdiction?
There are several collateral packages that can be granted to secure high-yield debentures, which typically depend on the industry sector of the issuer as well as the amount of assets that are free of liens.
Such packages usually include assignment of receivables, equity pledge agreements, mortgages and security over movable assets, such as equipment.
Are there any limitations on security that can be granted to secure high-yield securities in your jurisdiction? Are there any limitations on types of assets that can be pledged as collateral? Are there any limitations on which entities can provide security?
There are no specific limitations as to which types of security can be granted to secure high-yield securities or that can be pledged as collateral.
The foreclosure of such security, however, may be limited by different factors depending on the industry and type of security, such as bankruptcy, insolvency, judicial and out-of-court reorganisation proceedings and other laws of general application relating to or affecting the rights of debenture holders, among others.
Describe the typical collateral structure in your jurisdiction. For example, is it common to see crossing lien deals between high-yield debt securities and bank agreements?
As discussed above, the collateral structure will depend on several factors and the credit analysis to be performed on the issuer.
Although there is no legal limitation, cross-lien deals between high-yield debt securities and bank agreements are not common in the Brazilian jurisdiction.
Who typically bears the costs of legal expenses related to security interests?
Typically, the issuer bears all the costs of legal expenses related to the security interests, including the fees to be paid to the underwriters’ legal counsel and the registration fees before the relevant registry of deeds and documents. Such fees usually comprise:
- the CVM’s registration costs (in the case of registered offerings implemented under CVM Instruction No. 400);
- secondary market fees (fees of B3 S.A. - Bolsa, Brasil, Balcão);
- underwriters’ fees;
- legal counsel’s fees;
- independent auditors’ fees; and
- roadshow and marketing costs and expenses.
How are security interests recorded? Is there a public register?
There is a public register and the general rule is that, in order to be effective against third parties, all security documents must be duly filed and registered with the competent registry of deeds and documents.
Different securities might also have to comply with additional requirements to be fully effective under Brazilian law. Pledges over shares, for instance, have to be registered in the share registry books of the issuer (in case of book-entry shares), whereas pledges over quotas issued by a limited liability company must be registered in its relevant articles of association.
How are security interests typically enforced in the high-yield context?
The investors will typically have a security agent responsible for the supervision and enforcement of the collateral in case of default by the issuer. The security agent shall act under the instructions of the investors represented by the trustee, and the enforcement procedure will vary depending on the type of security, but it typically can be exercised either by an out-of-court foreclosure (amicable sale), or an enforcement proceeding.
Under the Brazilian Civil Procedure Code, the investor (represented by the security agent) is entitled to sell the underlying assets of the pledge (amicable sale) provided that the security agreement expressly permits such amicable sale or the amicable sale is otherwise authorised by the issuer under a power of attorney. High-yield security agreements typically contain provisions and powers of attorney allowing the security agent to arrange for judicial or extrajudicial foreclosure of the security and granting powers to transfer, assign or otherwise dispose of the rights related to the collateral. Even though such a procedure is possible in theory, in practice, it is not very common (in many cases because the issuer or guarantor opposes the out-of-court sale).
The most common remedy for the foreclosure of security agreements is the judicial foreclosure proceeding, which follows a specific set of rules and procedures under the Brazilian Civil Procedure Code, starting with the filing of a initial motion requesting the issuer or guarantor to be served with process to pay the matured debt and, in case of default, seizure of the corresponding collateral.
The judicial foreclosure of security, however, tends to be an expensive and time-consuming process, as issuers or guarantors typically oppose the foreclosure with arguments against the enforceability of the main claim or of the security or arguments regarding the event of default. For this reason, it is not unusual for investors to use collateral as leverage to force the issuer or guarantor to renegotiate the original agreements and avoid the costs and expenses of a prolonged enforcement action instead of foreclosing the collateral immediately after the debt is accelerated.
Debt seniority and intercreditor arrangements
Ranking of high-yield debt
How does high-yield debt rank in relation to other creditor interests?
The Brazilian Civil Code and the Insolvency Act (Law No. 11,101/05) establish specific ranking depending on the type and nature of the underlying debt, but there is no specific category for high-yield debt securities in relation to other standard debt securities.
Depending on whether collateral is granted, as well as the type of collateral, the corresponding high-yield debenture will rank senior when compared to any unsecured loan or debt security of the issuer. In this case, the proceeds from the enforcement of the granted collateral shall first satisfy the financial obligations of the issuer arising from the high-yield debenture.
Regulation of voting and control
Describe how intercreditor arrangements entered into by companies in your jurisdiction typically regulate voting and control between holders of high-yield debt securities and bank lenders?
Intercreditor arrangements in high-yield debentures vary depending on the corresponding collateral structure, but investors typically require that the debentures rank at least pari passu with other incurred debts by the issuer.
It is not usual, however, to have common collateral shared among high-yield investors and bank lenders (although that may be seen in transactions involving project financing, in which the company may obtain funding from banks - usually the BNDES - and the local debt capital markets).
Offsetting of interest payments
May issuers set off interest payments on their securities against their tax liability? Are there any special considerations for the high-yield market?
No, that is not common in the local market.
Is it common for issuers to obtain a tax ruling from the competent authority in your jurisdiction in connection with the issuance of high-yield bonds?
No, that is not common in the local market.