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FirstFT: Companies raise record $12tn in ‘blockbuster’ capital markets year

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Good morning. Companies raised a record $12.1tn this year by selling stock, issuing debt and inking new loans, as a torrent of central bank stimulus and the rapid recovery from the pandemic propelled global markets.

With a few days left of 2021, the cash haul is already up almost 17 per cent from 2020, itself a historic year, and almost a quarter above the take in 2019 before the coronavirus crisis, according to Financial Times calculations based on Refinitiv data.

The ferocious pace of fundraising underscores just how easy financial conditions are in many parts of the world, most notably the US, where more than $5tn was raised.

“It’s been a really blockbuster year,” said Chris Blum, a BNP Paribas banker who helps finance leveraged buyouts. “We anticipate it will continue into next year. Every year you kinda think markets will go down from this frantic pace but it will still be robust.”

Dozens of 10 and 11-figure loans were signed, including ones to fund Discovery’s merger with AT&T’s WarnerMedia unit and the freight rail operator Canadian Pacific’s takeover of rival Kansas City Southern. And investors in the roughly $10tn US corporate bond market lapped up deal after deal.

1. US cuts Covid isolation period to five days to ease Omicron disruption: US health officials have slashed the recommended isolation period for people who have Covid-19 as parts of the country’s economy struggle with severe staff shortages brought on by the Omicron wave. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says infected people need only to isolate for five days, as long as their symptoms are clear by then, then wear a mask around others for a further five days.

2. US stocks rise in post-holiday trading: US stocks rose in thin post-Christmas trading yesterday with energy stocks leading the rally, and technology stocks also ratcheting higher. Analysts are querying whether the favourable market conditions that drove Wall Street to all-time highs this year will continue into 2022.

3. China increases scrutiny of companies seeking overseas listings: China has said that domestic companies must gain approval before listing overseas if they operate in sectors deemed off-limits to foreign investors, closing a loophole for the country’s tech groups to raise capital in the US without undergoing regulatory scrutiny at home. “The days of freewheeling overseas listings are gone,” said Li Chengdong, founder of Dolphin, a Beijing-based consultancy.

A Wall Street sign at the New York Stock Exchange
Chinese ride hailing app Didi Chuxing listed on the New York Stock Exchange in June, but said it would reverse course following opposition from Beijing © AP © AFP via Getty Images

Coronavirus digest

  • Xi’an officials tightened lockdown measures and launched another round of mandatory testing for its 13m residents amid China’s worst Covid-19 outbreak in almost two years.

  • France will require working from home for all eligible employees for at least three days a week and ban large indoor gatherings as it seeks to curb a wave of infections.

  • Boris Johnson has opted against new restrictions in England before New Year’s Eve despite the rising number of cases over the Christmas weekend.

What else we’re reading

Apple Watch’s failure to integrate The challenge of integrating technology into healthcare is partly why the Apple Watch, which launched in 2015 and is worn on the wrists of more than 100m people, has largely failed to fulfil its promise that “the future of health is on your wrist”.

Iran-US: faltering nuclear talks enter dangerous phase Our big read looks at the mistrust between Tehran and Washington, which is deeper than ever. Now, with Iran enriching uranium at its highest-ever levels and the language hardening on all sides, experts warn that the next nuclear crisis could be just months away — despite talks resuming yesterday.

The most brilliant bookshops in the world In October we published a list of FT writers’ favourite bookshops. Here are the nominations that readers thought we missed, from New York to London, Seoul, São Paulo and beyond.

The City Lights bookshop in San Francisco
‘A holdover from a different city’: City Lights in San Francisco © Alamy

Our most-read opinion article of the year

The FT’s most-read opinion article of 2021 was published only a few weeks ago. You may not be surprised to know that it is about coronavirus, and, in particular, Omicron. Don’t miss Anjana Ahuja’s description of the “bumpy journey” ahead, with a new variant that “makes the road a bit icier”.

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