News

A finance subsidiary of Citigroup is prepping its first-ever equipment securitization, sources said.

CitiCapital's $500 million to $600 million private deal will be issued via Salomon Smith Barney, also a unit of Citigroup. Although details are scarce, it's said that this deal is associated with the Copelco Capital platform, which Citigroup acquired in May 2000 from Itochu International.

Copelco had been a longtime issuer of equipment ABS, although the last Copelco deal was prior to the Citigroup acquisition, more than a year and a half ago.

People

Paul Josie and Glen Roder are no longer at Credit Suisse First Boston's ABS department.

Michael Van Bemmelen joins Nomura Securities as a director focusing on CDOs, reporting to David Jacob. Bemmelen, who has worked at Moody's Investors Service and Sanwa Bank in the past, was most recently at Dresdner Kleinwort, also focusing on CDOs.

Moody's Investors Service has made several structural changes.

Jay Siegel has been appointed managing director and a co-head of the mortgage-backed securities team with managing director Pramila Gupta.

Meanwhile, Linda Stesney, who has been a managing director in the residential mortgage-backed area and for Latin American securitizations, will be returning to a three-day-a-week schedule.

Michael Kanef, managing director and co-head of the Term Asset-Backed team, will join Sam Pilcer as co-head of the Asset-Backed Commercial Paper team. Kanef will continue to be responsible for term asset-backed securitizations, along with managing director Ed Bankole. Senior vice president Jay Eisbruck will be assuming additional management responsibilities within the term asset-backed team, as Kanef divides his time between term ABS and ABCP.

PMI insurer Radian Group Inc. promoted John DeLuca to senior vice president in charge of market development within the Asset Guaranty Insurance Co. unit, the company reported last Thursday. He moves up from vice president of market development, where he managed the company's direct municipal-bond insurance business. In his new role De Luca will promote Asset Guaranty to buyers of insured structured finance and municipal bonds and manage the reinsurance business for sister company Enhance Re.

Law firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson announced Nov. 12 that it hired Robert Villani as a corporate partner, with a concentration on structured finance transactions. He comes from JPMorgan, where he was a vice president in the structured finance group.

Maquarie Bank recently announced the hiring of John Daly and Rick Steins away from JPMorgan, in order to beef up the company's presence in private placement markets. Daley, who was at JPMorgan for 14 years, will report directly to Macquarie CEO Oliver Yates, and Steins, who relocated from London, will report to Daly.

Ratings

After the recent downgrade of Argentina to triple-C-minus from single-B-minus, Fitch downgraded BHN III, BHN IV and BACS I last week and all three transactions have a negative outlook. The rating agency noted that the three RMBS transactions are still rated above the sovereign which indicates a lower probability of default, and despite the country's current problems, the three deals have continued to perform well. However, the potential sovereign risks on the collateral and the structures of these deals led to the downgrade.

Standard & Poor's assigned preliminary ratings of triple-B-minus to PDVSA Finance Ltd.'s $1.5 billion of notes. The notes will be issued in four tranches of debt with various maturities from May 2007 to November 2026. Fitch has also announced that it expects to rate the deal single-A-minus. Among the reasons for the expected ratings are PDVSA's ability to produce and export crude oil and petroleum products at least close to current levels. The low likelihood that the Republic of Venezuela would impose material or permanent restrictions on crude oil and petroleum exports and/or force the remittance of all export revenues, thus causing a loss to the holders of PDVSA Finance notes.

Standard & Poor's has downgraded Argentina's sovereign rating to double-C from triple-C-plus, and the outlook remains negative. The downgrade reflects the increased probability that Argentina will decide to comprehensively restructure its internal and external debt as signaled by government officials that have now made debt restructuring a priority solution to the fiscal and economic crisis. According to the rating agency, the implementation of the zero-deficit policy is almost impossible to sustain with declining revenue, unless the corresponding primary surplus target is lowered through a reduction in interest payments.

CDOs

Valeo III, a $500 million investment-grade average CDO for Deerfield Capital via Credit Suisse First Boston, could hit the market this week in the low 40s plus Libor on the triple-As, according to IFR Asset-Backed Securities. Madison Avenue Structured Finance CDO 1 (Metropolitan Life), a $300 million ABS CDO via Lehman Brothers, is also slated to hit the market during the week of Nov. 5 in the 45 to 50 basis point plus Libor range on the triple-As. Met Life is revered as one of the most experienced ABS investors in the U.S. Its balance is virtually 100% aligned with the MASF CDO's reference portfolio, buyside sources noted.

Merrill Lynch has the Dryden cashflow high-yield CDO for Prudential Investments on deck, a $350 million-area offering (not including preference shares) talked at 43 to 44 basis points plus six months Libor (A/L 9-years) on the senior notes. Dryden's triple-B tranche is heard at 230-240 basis points plus six months Libor (A/L 11-years).

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