New Issue: MFC FixedReset, 4.70%+255

Manulife Financial Corporation has announced:

a Canadian public offering of Non-cumulative Rate Reset Class 1 Shares Series 25 (“Series 25 Preferred Shares”). Manulife will issue 10 million Series 25 Preferred Shares priced at $25 per share to raise gross proceeds of $250 million. The offering will be underwritten by a syndicate of investment dealers co-led by RBC Capital Markets, Scotiabank and TD Securities and is anticipated to qualify as Tier 1 capital for Manulife. Manulife has also granted the underwriters an option, exercisable in whole or in part at any time up to 48 hours prior to closing, to purchase up to an additional 2 million Series 25 Preferred Shares at the same offering price. The gross proceeds raised under the offering will be $300 million should this option be exercised in full. The expected closing date for the offering is February 20, 2018. Manulife intends to file a prospectus supplement to its December 15, 2017 base shelf prospectus in respect of this issue.

Holders of the Series 25 Preferred Shares will be entitled to receive a non-cumulative quarterly fixed dividend yielding 4.70 per cent annually, as and when declared by the Board of Directors of Manulife, for the initial period ending June 19, 2023. Thereafter, the dividend rate will be reset every five years at a rate equal to the 5-year Government of Canada bond yield plus 2.55 per cent.

Holders of Series 25 Preferred Shares will have the right, at their option, to convert their shares into Non-cumulative Floating Rate Class 1 Shares Series 26 (“Series 26 Preferred Shares”), subject to certain conditions, on June 19, 2023 and on June 19 every five years thereafter. Holders of the Series 26 Preferred Shares will be entitled to receive non-cumulative quarterly floating dividends, as and when declared by the Board of Directors of Manulife, at a rate equal to the three-month Government of Canada Treasury Bill yield plus 2.55 per cent.

Manulife intends to use the net proceeds from the offering for general corporate purposes, including funding the recently announced redemption of The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company’s outstanding $200 million principal amount of 2.819% Fixed/Floating Subordinated Debentures due February 26, 2023.

As this issue is not NVCC compliant and it is an insurance issue, it is analyzed as having a Deemed Retraction, effective 2025-1-31 (this date may change in the future).

This issue looks quite expensive to me, according to Implied Volatility Analysis:

Click for Big

We see in this chart many of the same features we saw when reviewing the recent BIP.PR.E, BEP.PR.M, CM.PR.S and NA.PR.E: the curve is very steep, with Implied Volatility equal to 40% (a ridiculously large figure).

The ludicrously high figure of Implied Volatility is something I take to mean that the underlying assumption of the Black-Scholes model, that of no directionality of prices, is not accepted by the market; the market seems to be taking the view that since things seem rosy now, they will always be rosy and everything will trade near par in the future.

If the MFC series were an isolated example of this behaviour, I would grin smugly to myself and declare that the implied directionality was a strong indication that the market is starting to take my predictions of Deemed Retraction seriously; but it’s not isolated. In addition, if the market was accounting for future redemption, I would expect the projected yields-to-deemed-retraction to be lower.

In the absence of DeemedRetraction, I balk at ascribing a 100% probability to the ‘all issues will be called, or at least exhibit price stability’ hypothesis. There may still be a few old geezers amongst the Assiduous Readers of this blog who can still (faintly) remember the Great Bear Market of 2014-16, in which quite a few similar assumptions made earlier turned out to be slightly inaccurate. The extra cushion implied by an Issue Reset Spread that is well over the market spread is worth something, even if nothing gets called.

All told, though, I have no hesitation in slapping an ‘Expensive’ label on this issue – according to the Implied Volatility analysis shown above, the theoretical price of the new issue without any accounting for the potential of a DeemedRetraction is 24.00. Mind you, the Implied Volatility cap rate of 40% is arbitrary; perhaps if I allowed 50% or so the new issue would sit on the curve … but in that case, Implied Volatility has become a completely arbitrary meaningless number.

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