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Netflix Raises $2.2 Billion Through Junk-Bond Offering

Netflix just went deeper into hock: The company announced the pricing of unsecured bonds in a transaction raising around $2.2 billion, giving it more cash to invest in content, real estate and infrastructure.

The streamer had said Tuesday that it planned to raise $2 billion through a new debt offering, bringing its long-term debt to more than $12 billion.

On Wednesday, Netflix announced that the total bond offering would be worth about $2.24 billion. That includes €1.2 billion ($1.34 billion) in 3.875% senior notes due 2029 and $900 million of its 5.375% senior notes due 2029. The company said it expects to close the sale on April 29, 2019.

Netflix, in its boilerplate text announcing the bond sale said, said it plans to use the cash for general “corporate purposes, which may include content acquisitions, production and development, capital expenditures, investments, working capital and potential acquisitions and strategic transactions.”

The bond offering marks the seventh time in four years that Netflix is raising $1 billion or more through debt. With that latest debt deal, its long-term debt will climb to around $12.5 billion.

Moody’s Investor Service assigned a “Ba3” junk-bond rating to the Netflix new debt offering, indicating a non-investment grade “speculative” security. The firm maintained a “stable” outlook on the company, “which reflects our expectation that Netflix’s operating results will improve gradually and the company will de-lever through revenue, EBITDA and margin growth,” Moody’s said in announcing the rating Monday.

“Pro forma for this debt issuance, Netflix’s gross leverage will be 7.5x (including Moody’s adjustments) for the last twelve months ended March 31, 2019,” the firm said in the rating assignment. However, it expects Netflix’s gross leverage will fall to below 5.5x by the end of 2019 and below 5.0x by the end of 2020. Gross leverage refers to a company’s gross debt as a ratio of annual EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization).

Moody’s projected that the company has the ability to reach cash-flow breakeven by 2023, as it increases total margins to the low- to mid-20% range. “We believe the company’s strategy to procure its own content has positive long-term implications as it builds its owned library assets as compared to pure licensing of content which has supply considerations,” the firm said.

Netflix, in its first-quarter 2019 letter to shareholders, said it had “no change to our plan to use the high-yield market to finance our cash needs” — signaling its intention of to raise more debt. Netflix’s cash burn has accelerated: Free cash flow for the first quarter of 2019 was -$460 million (compared with -$287 million in the year-earlier quarter). The company now expects its free cash flow deficit for the full-year 2019 to be “modestly higher” than it previously guided, to -$3.5 billion. It had previously told investors it was expecting negative free cash flow of $3.0 billion for 2019; Netflix says it still expects free cash flow to improve starting in 2020.

The company last raised $2 billion in junk bonds in October 2018. So far, it hasn’t paid down any significant amount of the long-term debt it has accrued. It reported $135.5 million in interest expense for the first quarter of 2019 (3% of revenue) up 67% from $81.2 million a year prior (2.2% of revenue).

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