Leveraged Buyout - LBO

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DEFINITION of 'Leveraged Buyout - LBO'

The acquisition of another company using a significant amount of borrowed money (bonds or loans) to meet the cost of acquisition. Often, the assets of the company being acquired are used as collateral for the loans in addition to the assets of the acquiring company. The purpose of leveraged buyouts is to allow companies to make large acquisitions without having to commit a lot of capital.

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BREAKING DOWN 'Leveraged Buyout - LBO'

In an LBO, there is usually a ratio of 90% debt to 10% equity. Because of this high debt/equity ratio, the bonds usually are not investment grade and are referred to as junk bonds. Leveraged buyouts have had a notorious history, especially in the 1980s when several prominent buyouts led to the eventual bankruptcy of the acquired companies. This was mainly due to the fact that the leverage ratio was nearly 100% and the interest payments were so large that the company's operating cash flows were unable to meet the obligation.

One of the largest LBOs on record was the acquisition of HCA Inc. in 2006 by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR), Bain & Co., and Merrill Lynch. The three companies paid around $33 billion for the acquisition.

It can be considered ironic that a company's success (in the form of assets on the balance sheet) can be used against it as collateral by a hostile company that acquires it. For this reason, some regard LBOs as an especially ruthless, predatory tactic.

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