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Mattel just wanted to delay its bond offering — not scrap it, sources say

Hot Wheels car
Hot Wheels is one of Mattel’s core brands.
(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)

In a sign Mattel Inc. isn’t too worried about the whistleblower letter that upended last week’s $250-million bond offering, the toymaker initially asked bankers to delay the sale for just a couple of days, according to people who have communicated with company officials.

The closing was scrapped when at least one of the banks involved balked at a postponement because the bonds had already been priced, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the communications were private. An additional person familiar with the deal said the banks learned of the letter after the pricing. Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. were among the institutions involved.

Mattel is playing down the situation as a case of being overly cautious, the people said. The toymaker was made aware of the letter Aug. 6, just two days before the scheduled closing. Citing the need for more time to investigate the allegations, which haven’t been made public, the company disclosed Aug. 8 that the deal had been canceled.

In the public filing, the company didn’t say how it learned of what it called an “anonymous whistleblower letter” or whether a regulator was involved. That’s because the notification came from a third party that’s outside of government, the people said of Mattel’s account.

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A spokeswoman for the El Segundo company declined to comment, as did representatives for Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo.

The debt offering was canceled just about two weeks after the company’s first quarterly revenue gain since 2017 gave investors hope that its long turnaround might be taking hold. The toymaker has said it still intends to refinance $250 million in bonds maturing in October 2020.

Mattel’s stock has plummeted about 16% since the disclosure. On Tuesday, Mattel was among the consumer companies whose shares were buoyed by President Trump’s decision to delay some tariffs on goods from China. Mattel shares rose 51 cents, or 4.6%, to $11.51 on Tuesday.

The 2020 bonds, which the new issue was intended to refinance, are trading just above par, according to Trace pricing.

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“That level is definitely not sounding the alarm,” said Scott Kimball, a portfolio manager at BMO Global Asset Management, who owns Mattel bonds maturing in 2021. “They have some time and decent enough liquidity options to press pause on the refinancing as they investigate this anonymous letter.”


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