Tencent sells $5b bond, drawing comparisons to Alibaba

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A pedestrian walks past Tencent Holdings Ltd.'s new under construction headquarters in Shenzhen, China, on Monday, Aug. 22, 2016. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Tencent Holdings Ltd. sold $5 billion bonds, the company’s biggest U.S. dollar offering and the first time its issued debt since 2015, drawing comparisons to the debt of internet giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

The five-, 10- and 20-year fixed-rate tranches priced at 65 basis points, 105 basis points, and 105 basis points respectively above U.S. Treasuries, compared with the initial price guidance of around 95 basis points, 130 basis points and 135 basis points. The Chinese internet company also sold five-year floating-rate notes at a 60.5 basis points over three-month Libor, according to data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Alibaba sold $7 billion of debt in November, including a 10-year and a 20-year bond at 108 basis points and 118 points above Treasuries respectively. The Tencent bonds are rated A2 by Moody’s Investors Service, one level below Alibaba’s notes.

Compared with Alibaba, Tencent has a lower net cash position and slightly higher gross leverage, according to a research note from Nomura Holdings Inc. on Thursday. “We think Alibaba’s aggressive acquisition appetite due to the new retail business strategy will narrow the difference on their credit metrics,” the Nomura analysts wrote.

The Tencent deal received orders of more than $41 billion across all tranches but skewed toward the 10-year portion, according to a person with knowledge of the transaction, who asked not to be identified as the details are private.

‘Trade Close’

“Although Tencent and Alibaba operate in different areas, their bonds will likely trade close to each other as investors recognize and value the respective strength of each issuer amid China’s shift to a technology-driven economy,” Cary Yeung, Hong Kong-based head of greater China debt at Pictet Asset Management, said before the bonds priced.

Tencent, known for games and messaging service WeChat, last came to the dollar-bond market in 2015, when it sold a total of $2.1 billion of bonds after pricing $2.5 billion of notes in the previous year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“We view Tencent as a strong credit which is reflected in both its rating and current spread levels,” Alaa Bushehri, a portfolio manager for emerging-market debt at BNP Paribas Asset Management, said before the bond sale.

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