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Expedia hits tough market for buy-back

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Kai Ryssdal: Think back to Friday afternoon about this time. . . . You might remember us saying the stock markets had had a pretty rough day. Among the flops was the initial public offering of the online travel company Orbitz. It opened and promptly fell 3 percent. Still hasn't regained its IPO price.

Today it's another Internet travel outfit in the news. Last month Expedia announced a plan to buy back more than a million shares of its own stock. Investors like buy-backs because they tend to boost the value of the remaining shares. Apparently the company spoke too soon. Today, Expedia said it will buy back far fewer shares than it originally planned. Almost 80 percent fewer.

Marketplace's Amy Scott reports Expedia is the latest victim of a tightening credit market.

Amy Scott: Expedia planned to pay for its buy-back by borrowing money. A few billion dollars of it. But today board Chairman Barry Diller called the available terms in the debt market "simply unacceptable." Analyst Aaron Kessler follows the stock for investment bank Piper Jaffray.

Aaron KESSLER: Essentially their lenders wouldn't give 'em a loan at the rate that they wanted. Clearly it's an indication that the market looks to be tightening.

So much so that a major private equity firm is reportedly looking outside the loan market for financing. Cerberus announced a deal today to buy United Rentals for more than $6.5 billion. A report in The Wall Street Journal said Cerberus will mostly avoid bank loans in favor of high-yield bonds and other securities.

Mike Hatley is president of Westgate Horizons Advisors. He says banks make money by selling portions of a company's loan to investors. But investors worry that some big companies could collapse under the heavy debt loads they've taken on. And they're turning up their noses at these new loans.

Mike HATLEY: Nobody wants to buy a new issue, because all the new issues we just bought three weeks ago . . . they're all trading at 97 cents on the dollar, 98 cents on the dollar. You know, some of them even lower.

Cerberus' deal to buy United Rentals shows there's still life in the leveraged buyout business. But those involved in the deals are proceeding more carefully. Just last week investors forced Cerberus to accept less favorable loan terms in order to fund its $7.4 billion purchase of Chrysler.

In New York, I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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