By the Numbers

Looking at the CLO 20% CPR assumption

| July 15, 2022

This document is intended for institutional investors and is not subject to all of the independence and disclosure standards applicable to debt research reports prepared for retail investors.

The average loan repayment rate in the S&P/LSTA leveraged loan index has moved around over time, although the market has long adopted the simplifying assumption of 20 CPR.  But loan repayment rates have tumbled this year and in other episodes of Fed tightening and wider loan spreads.  CLOs leaving their reinvestment period over the next few years—especially ones trading at deep discounts—look the most vulnerable to slowing speeds.  And portfolio maturity profiles look likely to become more important.

The average repayment rate in leveraged loans has run particularly low this year with no monthly annualized rate surpassing 20% in the first six months and the latest monthly print, in June, a mere 10% (Exhibit 1). It seems fair to chalk that up to a combination of actual Fed tightening, anticipated Fed tightening and wider loans spreads, among other things—although spreads could just reflect the expected impact of tightening and slower growth. Wider loan spreads take away the opportunity for borrowers to repay and lower their cost of funds. This is not the first time the market has seen this. The 3-month rolling average annualized repayment rate in the S&P/LSTA index fell from 35% in December 2016, for example, to 16% at the end of 2018 while the Fed funds target rate inched from 0.5% to 2.5% and spreads widened. Repayment rates also generally fell as the Fed tightened from 2004 into 2006.

Exhibit 1: Leveraged loan repayment rates have slowed through Fed hiking

Note: the shaded area represents the Fed rate hike period.  Monthly repayment rate = sum of all repayments in the month divided by the outstanding loans in the index.  Annualized monthly rate = 1- (1- month repayment rate)^12.
Source: S&P LCD, Bloomberg, Amherst Pierpont Securities

CLO investors need to reconsider the standard 20 CPR repayment assumption with the Fed hiking aggressively and with heightened risk of a recession, especially for CLOs with reinvestment periods ending in a year or two. CLOs exiting or out of their reinvestment period are vulnerable to slower repayments and extending weighted average lives. And investors in these CLOs trading at discounts to par dollar prices could see significant differences in returns.

Managers’ challenges after reinvestment

A total of 887 CLOs with $430 billion in collateral balance have reinvestment periods that end by December 2024.  Those CLOs will be most exposed to the slowdown in loan repayments. Managers also face some limits on trading after the end of reinvestment, especially in weaker credits. Concentration of distressed credit could add to extension risk, especially if the economy ends up in recession.

The 25 CLO managers with the largest absolute exposure to deals that exit reinvestment by December 2024 manage 55% of the market’s total exposure (Exhibit 3). Those largest 25 have only 2.78% exposure to loans now trading at $80 or below, although the range across these managers runs from 1.46% to 5.45%. The relatively low concentrations of distressed credits suggest it is not yet an issue for senior classes, which are first in line to get repaid from loan proceeds, but could be an issue for junior classes.

Exhibit 3: Managers with the largest balances leaving reinvestment by Dec 2024

Note: The data includes CLOs with reinvestment periods end in 2024 or prior and current collateral balance over $100 million. Data as of June 2022.
Source: Intex, Amherst Pierpont Securities.

Not every CLO looks likely make the 20% CPR assumption over the next few years if slowing growth or outright recession keeps loan spreads wide. This puts a bigger burden on the maturity profile of a manager’s portfolio and the ability of the borrower to repay at maturity, and current price may signal the market’s view of that ability. Keep an eye on loan maturity profile and on the concentration of distressed debt. Weighted average life and returns to CLO debt look likely to depend on it.

Caroline Chen
caroline.chen@santander.us
1 (646) 776-7809

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