Market Extra: Tesla readies record-sized pool of EV leases for bond deal, a sign of resilience in luxury

Tesla drivers don’t appear to be scared off by the Federal Reserve’s rate hikes.

The EV-maker began sounding out potential investors on Thursday for a new, $1.8 billion securitization of its electric-vehicle leases, its largest yet, according to preliminary marketing materials and Fitch Ratings.

The financing represents the biggest batch of leases from Tesla Inc.
to be turned into bonds since it began originating them in 2014, according to a Fitch presale report.

The plan is for bankers to drum up interest in about $1 billion of notes split into five classes of bonds, with ratings of Triple A to Double A, while lower-rated tranches won’t be marketed for sale, according to preliminary marketing materials viewed by MarketWatch.

Proceeds can be used by Tesla to make more leases, providing an alternative source of funding for the company beyond the corporate bond market. Tesla shares rose 1.8% Thursday and were up a stunning 124.1% on the year so far, according to FactSet.

A similar Tesla bond deal in July paid investors coupons of 5.6% to 6.4%, while one from 2021 paid only 0.16% to 1% when Fed rates were nearly zero, according to data from Finsight. Corporate borrowing costs have gone up with rates.

Should demand for the new bonds run high, bankers can increase the size of its classes, an investor said. That would provide Tesla with a bigger financing. The transaction isn’t expected to price until next week. Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The size of the transaction echoes recent data showing U.S. consumers have remained fairly resilient, despite aggressive Federal Reserve interest-rates hikes since last year to tamp down inflation. But costlier debt appears to be hitting subprime borrowers harder.

Jen Ripper, an investment specialist at Penn Mutual Asset Management who invests in securitized products, said she prefers exposure to shorter-duration bonds backed by prime borrowers, given that student debt repayments resume soon and because households’ leverage have increased from pandemic lows.

“Along with rising debt balances, interest rates on consumer debt are also rising,” Ripper said in a client note Thursday.

Leases in the new Tesla deal are backed by prime borrowers paying a weighted average interest rate of 5.06%, up from 4.9% for a Tesla deal from earlier this year, according to Fitch.

Related: Tesla may be the winner of Big Three-UAW labor talks

Stocks closed higher Thursday, with the Dow
booking a more than 300 point gain, ending up 1%, while the S&P 500 index
rose 0.8% and the Nasdaq Composite Index
advanced 0.8%, according to FactSet.

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