A surprise frontrunner, SLM Holding Corp. (Sallie Mae) led the pack of issuers for the first quarter 2000, securitizing approximately $4.1 billion in student loans over two deals, which, significantly, topped the company's entire issuance for the year 1999 by $200 million.

"I think the first quarter can be viewed as somewhat representative of what our plans are for the remainder of the year," said Jack F. Remondi, senior vice president and treasurer of Sallie Mae.

Though Sallie Mae will continue tapping the market frequently, Remondi attributes a portion of the issuance this first quarter to loans that weren't securitized in 1999 due to tumultuous market conditions, namely the liquidity crisis at the start of last year combined with end-of-year Y2K concerns.

"I don't know if we're going to hit $4 billion every single quarter, but we do expect to be doing a fair amount of activity," Remondi said. "We will be a regular participant each quarter, if market conditions are adequate."

Out from the credit-card sector, MBNA brought $2.8 billion in securities to market for a 5.5% market share of the first quarter, and second place overall.

"I think market conditions [for us] were very strong," said Vernon Wright, vice chairman and chief financial officer at MBNA. "It was a very good quarter with very strong demand, and I think our focus remains on the consistency of the program."

Last year, MBNA securitized just over $1 billion in the first quarter; however Wright explained that, technically speaking, MBNA's last securitization, which priced on March 27, won't close until April 13.

"As far as announced and priced transactions, which is the way we normally look at it, we did do more than usual for the quarter," Wright said. "The one we did last week settles in the second quarter."

Additionally, MBNA Canada is still actively participating in the Canadian market, Wright added.

"Canada's going very nicely," Wright said. "They've completed several transactions, which they do, principally through conduit programs up there."

MBNA Canada has done roughly $750 million in securitizations.

"I think you're going to see significantly more term transactions coming through this year."

Sectors

While issuance was down on the year for the home-equity and auto sectors, between Sallie Mae and Secondary Marketing Services - which brought nearly $1.2 billion in student loans during the first quarter - the student-loan sector more than doubled last year's first quarter, and has already hit well over 50% of total student-loan issuance in 1999.

In addition to increased student loan activity, credit cards edged over the 1999 numbers by close to $1 billion, according to figures provided by Thomson Financial Securities Data.

The increased issuance in the student-loan and credit-card sectors can be partly attributed to the solid demand for floating rate product in the first quarter, according to analysts.

As for home-equity, analysts are attributing the drop in issuance to be associated with the no-shows of big-name, regular issuers such as Advanta Corp. and Aames Financial. However, several of these companies are expected to come to market this quarter, according to the research team at PaineWebber (Mortgage Strategist).

PaineWebber anticipates increased home-equity activity for the second quarter.

In autos, GMAC issued $2.5 billion for the No. 3 spot, up one rung from Q1 1999, despite the fact that GMAC's issuance was down nearly $300 million. Ford Motor Credit, on the other hand, increased its issuance to $2.3 billion, up $1.4 billion from the same quarter last year.

Another highlight in the first quarter was the equipment-lease sector, in which issuance reached $1.78 billion, compared to $1.16 billion in the first quarter of 1999.

"It's seems that there were some nice, healthy equipment issuance out there," said one market watcher. "It could be a good year."

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