North America Leveraged Finance House: Goldman Sachs

IFR Awards 2023
5 min read
Paul Kilby

Excelling in a tough year

Goldman Sachs often outgunned the competition, even in a year that was dominated by refinancings and hardly played to its strengths. The bank brought its execution skills to bear, tapping different pools of demand and helping clients find creative solutions in a rough period for the asset class. Goldman Sachs is IFR’s North America Leveraged Finance House.

With hung loans still weighing on balance sheets in 2023, some banks felt the need to retreat and reassess. But Goldman Sachs managed to avoid such a fate going into the new year, even after being caught wrongfooted at times and unable to derisk certain assets.

“The way we performed, and the risk management tools we used kept us in a position where we could stay open for business and support our clients,” said Christina Minnis, head of global credit finance.

“We tried very, very hard coming into the year to be as clean as we could so that we would be forward leaning.”

Open for business, the bank garnered a string of key mandates in a volatile market as issuers sought its advice on how to raise capital and refinance debt in a rising rate environment.

“We are the ones that get the phone call [during volatile times],” said Chris Bonner, head of leverage finance, capital markets desk. “We are more about creative outcomes in a market that was not necessarily a straight line from start to finish.”

And while financial sponsor transactions took a hit in 2023, Goldman continued to expand this franchise, leading some of the biggest LBOs of the year and leaving it firmly on top of the LBO loan league tables for the second year running, according to LSEG data.

It also climbed from fifth to third spot in the high-yield bond league tables, running neck and neck with big balance sheet banks JP Morgan and Bank of America.

The bank acted as lead-left on a US$3.7bn financing for biopharmaceuticals company Syneos Health that helped fund its acquisition by an investment group, marking the largest LBO in the healthcare space since January 2022.

That came after the LBO market received a boost from Worldpay’s highly coveted US$8.4bn financing backing GTCR's acquisition of a majority stake in the merchant payments business. While the client awarded JP Morgan the US dollar tranche, Goldman won the mandate to handle both the euro and sterling tranches, underscoring its distribution capabilities on both sides of the Atlantic.

Confidence in the bank’s ability to handle multiple currencies also helped Goldman clinch a lead role on a multibillion US dollar-equivalent amend-and-extend transactions for software company BMC, which faced nearly US$5bn equivalent in US dollar and euro-denominated term loan B maturities in October 2025.

“[This was] the largest 2025 and 2024 maturity on everyone’s radar. It was a large global term loan that everyone owns,” Bonner said.

The bank created pricing pressure by playing the euro and US dollar markets against each other, upsizing and tightening both tranches and pushing out maturities to December 2028 for the KKR-owned company.

In the end, the Single B name landed a US$3.09bn and a €1.5bn term loan B in what Goldman bankers say was the largest cross border amend-and-extend transaction from a US borrower since the global financial crisis.

Indeed, refinancing was a big theme in 2023 as markets fretted about looming maturity walls on debt taken out at ultra-low levels before the US Federal Reserve started tightening monetary policy in March 2022.

Highly levered packaging company Tekniplex found itself facing over US$1bn of 2024 and 2025 maturities following a string of acquisitions and it quickly needed to find a way to access the market that wouldn’t put more pressure on its leverage metrics.

Part of the solution came through a US$650m 5.5-year unsecured bond that was rated Triple C, which Goldman managed to sell in what remained an uncertain backdrop.

“We were able to find a core group of creditors who bought a cash pay unsecured bond that actually kept leverage exactly where it was,” Bonner said. “The opco sponsor never thought that was going to get done and … they were able to get the rest of the senior secured refinanced.”

Indeed, in a market that opened and closed at a moment’s notice, Goldman showed it could skillfully tap different pockets of demand and cater to different client needs.

This included the expanding universe of private credit investors, a corner of the market that Goldman has made use of through its own platform dedicated to this space where it has leveraged its longstanding relationships with financial sponsors and corporate issuers.

This made all the difference for shoe seller Cole Haan and chemical company Ryam as they struggled to tackle looming debt maturities. Ryam had already tried but failed to tap the public markets, and Goldman found private credit investors willing to step in.

“Unlike other firms that are viewing the direct market as sort of a foe, we're viewing it as a friend,” said Minnis. “Both markets are going to coexist.”

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