CNO Financial looking to refinance bank loans

CNO Financial Group Inc. is trying to refinance its bank loans to push back the repayment dates on its debt.

The Carmel-based life and health insurer said Tuesday it has started discussions with a group of lenders about refinancing its senior secured credit facility, which is due to mature in October 2013. By that date, CNO would have to pay off its current balance of $652.1 million.

But CNO has proposed a series of loans that would not come due until 2016. And CNO wants to borrow only about half as much—$325 million—paying off the rest of its bank loans with either cash on hand or senior secured bonds.

CNO Financial, which was formerly called Conseco, came close to breaching the terms of its existing bank loans back in 2009, when the plunging value of its investments created a cash crunch. It exchanged higher interest rates for looser restrictions on the loans.

The refinancing would give CNO at least a chance to rid itself of those higher interest payments, but the company says the terms of the loans have not been set and can’t be predicted.

However, it is generally a good time to refinance corporate debt. Historically low interest rates and stronger corporate balance sheets have stoked investor demand for corporate debt, driving down bond rates and interest terms offered by banks.

A year ago, CNO refinanced a key batch of its corporate bonds, which were set to come due this year. It also received a cash infusion from New York-based hedge fund Paulson & Co.

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