U.S. companies are finally listening to stock and bond investors that have been pressing them to cut their debt loads.

General Electric Co. is selling its biopharmaceutical business to Danaher Corp. for more than $21 billion and using the money to pay down borrowings. Kraft Heinz Co. said last week that it is slashing its dividend and using the proceeds of asset sales to reduce its liabilities. Randall Stephenson, AT&T's CEO, said last month that the company's top priority in 2019 is to lower its debt.

Plans like these are good news for bondholders, who have spent years watching these companies borrow more and more to finance moves like acquisitions that are designed to boost share prices, says Brian Kennedy, a senior portfolio manager at Loomis Sayles & Co.

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