The European Central Bank snapped up debt of blue-chip names such as BMW, Sanofi and BASF as Germany and France accounted for the lion’s share of its first batch of corporate bond purchases.
The ECB has bought €10 billion worth of corporate bonds since June 8, data showed on Monday. The purchases are part of its €80-billion-a-month money-printing programme, aimed at spurring inflation and economic growth in the eurozone.
Germany’s Bundesbank and the Banque de France, two of the six banks executing the purchases, bought hundreds of bonds between them, compared to a few tens apiece for the central banks of Italy and Spain.
The banks did not disclose how much of each bond they had purchased. But the sheer length of the lists published by the German and French central banks suggested they were responsible for much of the buying.
This reflects the geographical distribution of the European credit market, which is largely concentrated in Germany, France and the Netherlands.
But it is also likely to provide ammunition to critics of the ECB’s corporate debt purchase programme, who say the bank is simply providing cheap credit to large companies already enjoying low borrowing costs.
The ECB is hoping its money will eventually trickle down to smaller borrowers across the euro zone for whom funding is still a problem, sources told Reuters earlier this year.
The Bundesbank bought several bonds issued by BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen but also snapped up debt of family-owned car parts maker Hella.
French oil major Total, food giant Danone and pharmaceuticals group Sanofi are among the issuers whose bonds were bought by the Banque de France.
National central banks published lists of the bonds they had bought and which can be lent on for the first time on Monday.
They can buy bonds directly from issuers or on the secondary market. Market purchases accounted for 96% of the total in June.
The European Central Bank started buying corporate bonds on 8 June as part of its effort to revive rock-bottom inflation by getting companies to borrow and spend.
Success will largely depend on the ECB’s ability to attract new borrowers and on cheaper borrowing costs trickling down to weaker economies like Italy’s and Spain’s, where costs remain high.
The ECB move on the corporate bond market follows an aggressive policy of buying up government debt.
In September 2012, the ECB launched a potentially unlimited bond-buying programme to lower struggling eurozone countries' borrowing costs and draw a line under the debt crisis.
The OMT (Outright Monetary Transactions) programme was launched at the height of the eurozone debt crisis, shortly after Draghi said in a speech that the ECB would do “whatever it takes” to prevent the collapse of the currency union.
It allows the ECB to buy bonds of a eurozone country on the open market if its government has agreed to a reform programme in return for eurozone funding.