There's more than one kind of CLO revival underway. Issuance of CLOs in the quasi-public 144A market has picked up dramatically since the financial crisis, thanks to the strong performance of existing vehicles. But, market observers say there has also been a pick-up in issuance of CLOs that are truly private, which have proprietary structures and only a handful of participants.

Private CLOs have been used for some time to finance less liquid loans, but during the financial crisis participants started using them to fill a gap in financing when it became more difficult to get standardized 144A CLOs off the ground. In some cases, private CLOs are used to provide bridge financing for CLOs that are eventually issued in the 144A market; in other cases, they are used by banks and asset managers as a longer-term vehicle to manage their exposure to middle market loans.

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