America’s companies, from Apple Inc. to Verizon Communications Inc., are saving about $700 billion in interest payments with the Federal Reserve’s unprecedented stimulus.
Corporate bond yields over the past four years have fallen to an average of 4.6 percent from 6.14 percent in the five years before Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s demise, a savings equal to $15.4 million annually per every $1 billion borrowed. Businesses took advantage of the Fed’s largesse to lock in record low rates, extend maturities and raise cash by selling $5.16 trillion of bonds, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
When Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke started to pump cash directly into the financial system in December 2008 by purchasing bonds in a policy known as quantitative easing, unemployment was the highest in 26 years and companies rated below Baa3 at Moody’s and less than BBB- by Standard & Poor’s faced $1.2 trillion of debt maturing through 2015. That’s been cut to about $115.8 billion, according to Barclays Plc.
After rising as high as 11.1 percent on Oct. 28, 2008, it wasn’t until Sept. 17, 2009 that yields fell below the pre-Lehman average of 6.14 percent, the Bank of America Merrill Lynch index shows.
Mortgage financiers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were placed into government conservatorship, insurer American International Group Inc. agreed to a U.S. takeover to avert collapse, Merrill Lynch & Co. was compelled to sell itself to Bank of America Corp. and automaker General Motors Corp. faced insolvency.
“There was this maturity wall that people were terrified of,” said Neil Wessan, the group head of New York-based CIT Group Inc.’s capital markets unit. “That’s been spread out over a much broader period of time.”
Madison, New Jersey-based Realogy, the most indebted U.S. real-estate services company, has decreased its total interest expense to $255 million from $672 million in 2012, Chief Financial Officer Anthony Hull said in a July interview.