By Al Yoon
NEW YORK, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Washington Mutual Inc., the third largest lender in the United States, will become the first bank in the nation to tap the growing covered-bond market by selling up to 20 billion euro of debt backed by home loans, according to Standard & Poor's.
Seattle-based Washington Mutual (WM.N: Quote, Profile, Research) plans by mid-month to access the 1.6 trillion euro market where it may see lower long-term funding costs than through sales of its corporate debt or advances from the Federal Home Loan Bank system, according to Todd Niemy, an analyst at S&P in New York.
Covered bonds differ from traditional mortgage-backed securities in that the debt remains on the company's balance sheet, allowing it to retain control over the assets. The bonds are secured by a portfolio of assets that in the case of the borrower's insolvency would be used to make payments.
The bonds will allow U.S. banks to diversify funding into a European market that has undergone a "renaissance" in recent years, S&P said. Germany, Spain and the UK have been particularly active issuers since 2004.
Washington Mutual "is taking advantage of an expanding European appetite for U.S. mortgage credit," Niemy said in an interview. "A lot more U.S. mortgage bonds are being purchased in Europe and Asia" and the covered bond sale is a natural extension, he said.
Washington Mutual will provide a mortgage bond backed by mortgages with fixed-interest for five years, and adjustable thereafter, as collateral for the covered bond, S&P said. A call to Washington Mutual wasn't immediately returned.
The "AAA" rated issue will probably trigger more covered bond sales by U.S. companies, S&P said. Washington Mutual itself will sell the bonds up to six times a year, S&P said, citing the company.
Barclays Capital, ABN Amro and Deutsche Bank are managing the Washington Mutual covered bond sale. (Additional reporting by Bei Bei She in London) (Reporting by Al Yoon, editing by Leslie Adler; Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org; email: email@example.com; Tel: 646-223-6347))