A Short Insight on Opportunities in Alternative Credit

9 October 2020

Alternative Credit investments span the liquidity spectrum and are secured by assets that generate cash flows upon which the investment relies for repayment. From an income and yield perspective, these assets offer varying premiums relative to traditional fixed income. These investments also offer downside protection, given ample levels of credit enhancement and robust covenant packages.1

The Opportunity – Relative Value

The below chart illustrates the relative value opportunity available to investors in collateralized loan obligations (“CLOs”), an Alternative Credit asset class, relative to similarly rated corporate fixed income.

Insight – CLOs Avoid Most Underlying Corporate Defaults

CLOs invest in diversified and actively managed pools of corporate loans. Year-to-date, 59 non-investment grade companies have defaulted on their loans, representing approximately $50 billion of paper. In aggregate, CLOs hold approximately 59% of all corporate loans outstanding. During periods of retail loan fund outflows, CLOs’ share of the primary issue loan market can rise to 75% or more; such has been the case during most of the last 18 months.2

One might therefore expect that CLOs would have been caught holding their fair share (59% or more) of the defaulted issuers. Not so. Per Ares’ proprietary insights, we see that CLOs’ exposure to defaulted loans is 13.3%. Moreover, if we look back in time and ask, “did CLOs ever own these loans which eventually defaulted?” that exposure increases only modestly to 25%.2

This repeats a pattern that we have seen in the CLO market in previous cycles: CLOs have historically had significantly less exposure to the weakest credits than other types of loan funds. At a minimum, it suggests that all the noise around CLOs and their fundamental risks is obscuring some important signals about the nature of this cycle. Why is it again the case that CLOs are underexposed to the weakest credits? The data we see on fundamental credit risks across the loan market suggests that the stronger credit performance that CLOs are experiencing is not a matter of luck but rather credit strategy and investment criteria, albeit with a range across managers.

For additional insights, please visit aresmgmt.com

The information in this publication is current as at the date of publication and is provided solely by Ares Australia Management Pty Limited (ACN 636 490 732) (AAM). AAM is a corporate authorised representative (no. 1280423) of Fidante Partners Limited (ACN 002 835 592) (AFSL 234668).

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