As the first quarter of 2020 drew to a close, Minneapolis-based retailer Target Corp. issued $2.5 billion in bonds on Tuesday. The offering was first disclosed in filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last week.
“We started 2020 in a very strong financial position, backed by our solid balance sheet, top-tier credit ratings and ample liquidity,” said Erin Conroy, a spokeswoman for Target. “Given the fluid outlook for the economy, we are bolstering our balance sheet to ensure we can continue providing essential services to our guests across America in a wide range of potential scenarios.”
In the wake of Covid-19, businesses everywhere are grappling with a “wide range of potential scenarios.” The only certainty at the moment is uncertainty. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 410 points on Tuesday and finished down a jarring 23.2 percent for the first quarter.
A filing last week indicated that Target would use the funds for “general corporate purposes.”
While Target has seen a strong short-term uptick in sales as shoppers stock up on essentials, the filing also noted the uncertainty that Covid-19 has brought for the retailer:
“Given the highly fluid and uncertain outlook for consumer shopping patterns and government policy related to Covid-19, we are unable to predict whether these sales trends will continue or new sales trends—including the possibility of significant sales reductions—will emerge. … The rapid development and fluidity of this situation precludes any prediction as to the ultimate impact of COVID-19 on our business, financial condition, and financial performance, which could be material.”
Target issued two blocks of bonds: $1.5 billion in notes paying a 2.25 percent interest rate due in 2025 and $1 billion in notes with an interest rate of 2.65 percent due in 2030.
The filing indicated that nine institutional investors have pledged to buy the $2.5 billion in bonds. Investors include Citigroup Global Markets Inc., Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC, U.S. Bancorp Investments Inc., and J.P. Morgan Securities LLC.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that a wave of companies are “borrowing record amounts in the investment-grade bond market to build cash before the full impact of the novel coronavirus hits the U.S. economy.” The newspaper reported that $73 billion in investment-grade bonds were issued last week, setting a new record.
For investors, bonds offer a steady, predictable return without the volatility of stocks. For companies, it’s a way to secure debt financing at lower rates than they would be charged by a bank.
In a business update offered last week, Target said that it is seeing “unusually strong traffic and sales” in the wake of Covid-19. In the March 25 update, the company reported “month-to-date in March, overall comparable sales are more than 20 percent above last year, with comparable sales in Essentials and Food & Beverage up more than 50 percent.”
On March 20 the company announced it was investing more than $300 million in “frontline team members.” Target increased wages by $2 an hour for store and distribution center employees and announced that it would pay bonuses in April ranging from $250 to $1,500 to 20,000 store team leaders.
For Target’s fiscal year 2019 which ended on February 1, the company reported $77.1 billion in sales, a 3.6 percent increase from the previous year. At the beginning of February, the company had 1,868 stores across the U.S.