A strong bond

Minority underwriters have corporate bond issuers buzzing

Minority-owned investment banks have Wall Street buzzing. But it’s not because of a hot new offering. This time the enthusiasm is about the firms themselves.

In a recent multimillion-dollar deal, telecommunications giant GTE Corp. enlisted the services of four minority-owned investment banks to underwrite the sale of $225 million in 10-year debentures for its subsidiary, GTE California. The four firms were Utendahl Capital Partners, Williams Capital Group, Blaylock & Partners and Pryor McClendon Counts & Co. J.P. Morgan was also in on the deal.

The arrangement is indicative of a recent trend among corporate bond issuers, who, spurred on in part by a healthy market, have stepped up efforts at hiring minority underwriters to reach a broader base of institutional investors — particularly the small and medium-size accounts that are typically neglected by larger investment banks. "Women and minority-owned firms have access to investors that our other co-managers did not," explains Jack Reagan, GTE’s assistant treasurer for capital markets.

Given the chance, these firms delivered and then some. Initially, GTE set out to do a $100 million offering. However, the four minority-owned firms were so successful that the deal was upped to $225 million. In all, the "Fab Four" placed more than 50% of the corporate bonds — largely in accounts that had previously not held GTE securities. Says Reagan, "We were pleasantly surprised at how much they could place and the pricing they got for us."

Kenneth Bruce Jr., managing director for Pryor McClendon Counts, says the success of this issue "should demonstrate how inclusive behavior will enhance a corporation’s presence in capital markets and the marketplace as a whole." Adds Williams Capital Group President and CEO Christopher J. Williams, "It’s a win-win for both sides. We get the opportunity to demonstrate our ability and participate in the financial gain, and the corporations benefit from a broader range of investors."

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