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Carlyle Credit Income Fund (NYSE:CCIF) Q4 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

Carlyle Credit Income Fund (NYSE:CCIF) Q4 2023 Earnings Call Transcript November 30, 2023

Operator: Good day, everyone, and thank you for standing by. Welcome to the Carlyle Credit Income Fund Fourth Quarter Ending September 30, 2023 Earnings Call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. After the speakers' presentation, there will be a question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions] Please be advised that today's conference is being recorded. I would now like to hand the conference over to Jane Cai from Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

Jane Cai: Good afternoon, and welcome to Carlyle Credit Income Fund fourth quarter 2023 earnings call. With me on the call today is Lauren Basmadjian, the Fund's Chief Executive Officer; Nishil Mehta, the Fund's Portfolio Manager; and Nelson Joseph, the Fund's Chief Financial Officer. Last night, we filed our end CSR and issued a press release and corresponding earnings presentation discussing our results, which are available on the Investor Relations section of our website. Following our remarks today, we will hold a question-and-answer session for analysts and institutional investors. This call is being webcast and a replay will be available on our website. Any forward-looking statements made today do not guarantee future performance, and any undue reliance should not be placed on them.

An executive using a tablet to sign off on a line of credit for a small business.

These statements are based on current management expectations and involve inherent risks and uncertainties, including those identified in the Risk Factors section of our annual report on the Form NCSR. These risks and uncertainties could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated. Carlyle Credit Income Fund assumes no obligation to update any forward-looking statements at any time. With that, I'll turn the call over to Lauren.

Lauren Basmadjian: Thanks, Jane. Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining CCIF first earnings call. The fourth quarter represented a period of transition as Carlyle took over as investment advisor of the fund on July 14, 2023. In connection with this change, the Fund's name was changed to Carlyle Credit Income Fund and the Fund's investment mandate changed to focus primarily on investing in the equity tranches of CLOs. In the first four months since taking over as investment advisor, we have successfully transitioned the fund including completing the following. Carlyle successfully deployed the initial cash proceeds into a diverse pool of CLO equity, generating a GAAP yield of over 18.16% on a cost basis. Carlyle declared a monthly dividend of $0.094, equating to 14.2% annualized dividend based on NAV at September 30th, higher than the 12% target dividend yield previously disclosed to investors.

We leveraged the fund to meet our target leverage of 0.25x to 0.4x through the issuance of 8.75% Series A Term Preferred Stock due 2028. We issued $52 million through the initial issuance of $30 million on October 18th, an incremental $2 million through underwriters partially executing the greenshoe and $20 million add-on on November 21st. Carlyle now holds 41% of the common stock of CCIF following the completion of the $25 million tender offer and $15 million investment via newly issued shares and private share purchase. Carlyle's ownership is held via the public entity, Carlyle Group, and not through a fund managed by Carlyle. This provides significant alignment of interest between the investment advisor and the fund. Switching gears, I'd like to discuss the current market environment for both secured loans and CLO equity.

Carlyle is one of the world's largest CLO managers with $50 billion of AUM, about one-third of Carlyle Credits $150 billion of AUM, providing us with differentiated insights into the senior secured loan and CLO markets. Despite inflationary pressures in the economy and higher base rates, the loan market continues to be resilient as evidenced by increased issuance in the third quarter, continued load defaults and underlying earnings growth. In the third quarter, new loan issuance totaled $76 billion, the highest level since Federal Reserve due to tightening monetary policy in the first quarter of '22. The LTM default rate of the loan index has decreased to 1.3% from 1.7% in the second quarter, still below the historical average of about 2.5%.

During the third quarter, we have seen high single digit average EBITDA growth in the roughly 600 companies to which Carlyle's managed CLOs lend to. However, we continue to see downgrades in the senior secured loan market outpaced upgrades at approximately 25% of the loan market has been downgraded so far in 2023. This has resulted in an increase in loans rated CCC, and the average BBB exposure in CLOs is now over 6%. We expect default rates to return to historical averages of 2% to 3%, driven by certain underperforming over levered issuers with near-term maturities along with the backdrop of elevated rates. Turning now to the current CLO market. We believe CLO opportunities remain compelling as they continue to benefit from elevated base rates and attractive pricing in the secondary market.

Secondary CLO equity benefits from the rebound in quarterly payments and payments averaged over 4% based on par, which is above the historical average. We have found returns in the secondary market are currently higher than the primary market as the cash-on-cash benefits from tighter liabilities. However, primary CLO equity, and specifically print and sprint opportunities can be attractive at certain points in time. Elevated base rates have helped to offset tighter arbitrage and we continue to see a good pace of CLO issuance as the U.S. CLO market saw $28 billion of new issuance in the third quarter and now has exceeded $100 billion year-to-date. Reset and refinancing activity remains limited due to historically wide debt costs. As a result, approximately 40% of the CLO market is expected to be out of the reinvestment period by the end of this year.

I'll now hand the call over to Nishil Mehta, our portfolio manager, to discuss our deployment and the current portfolio.

Nishil Mehta: Thank you, Lauren. In connection with Carlyle becoming the advisor of the Fund in July. The prior advisor liquidated 97% of the real estate portfolio at closing. As a result, almost 100% of the Fund's assets, it was cash on a closing date. We leveraged Carlyle's longstanding presence in the CLO market as one of the world's largest CLO managers and 15-year track record of investing in third-party CLOs to deploy the cash and CCIF into a diversified portfolio and approximately two months ahead of schedule. As of September 30th, our portfolio consisted of 24 unique CLO equity investments managed by 19 different Carlyle managers sourced entirely in the secondary market. We targeted recent vintages Tier 1 and Tier 2 managers with ample time remaining in the reinvestment period.

Most of these portfolios have attractive cost of capital and with active management and time left in the reinvestment periods, managers can look to take advantage of periods of volatility to improve portfolios or reposition them. We utilize our in-house credit expertise, including over 20 credit analysts and portfolio managers to complete bottom-up fundamental analysis on the underlying portfolios of the CEOs. The following are some key stats on the portfolio as of September 30th. The portfolio generates a GAAP yield of 18.16% on a cost basis, supported by cash-on-cash yields of 26% on the October quarterly payments based on CCIF's purchase price. We expect cash yields to remain strong due to elevated base rates and continued increase in the weighted average spread of the portfolios as limited and new issued volume is at higher spreads.

The weighted average years less than reinvestment period is three years, the weighted average junior over collateralization cushion of 4.98%, a healthy cushion to offset the expected increase in the defaulted loans. Weighted average spread of the underlying portfolio was 3.7%. The percentage of loans rated CCC by S&P was 5.7%, providing a fair amount of cushion below the 7.5% CCC limit in CLOs. As a reminder, once the CLO has more than 7.5% of its portfolio rated CCC, the excess over 7.5% is marked at the lower fair market value and radiancy recovery rates and reduces over collateralization of cushions. The percentage of loans trading below 80 was limited at 3.7%. Now, I'll turn it over to Nelson, our CFO, to discuss the financial results.

Nelson Joseph: Thank you, Nishil. Today, I will begin with a review of our fourth quarter earnings. Total investment income for the fourth quarter was $2.2 million or $0.20 per share. Total expenses for the quarter was $3.6 million. Total net investment loss for the fourth quarter was $1.4 million or $0.14 per share. Net asset value as of September 30th was $8.42 share, a 1.8% increase from the $8.27 when Carlyle took over as the investment advisor. Our net asset value based on the bid side mark we received from a third-party on the CLO portfolio. We currently have one legacy real estate asset remaining in the portfolio. The fair market value of the loan is $2 million. We are currently in discussions with several parties to exit this position while maximizing proceeds.

Subsequent to fiscal year-end, we put into place an aftermarket offering program that will allow us to efficiently and accretively issue common stock once the stock trades above the net asset value. Fourth quarter earnings do not represent the expected earnings for CCIF on a go forward basis due to the following. First, we ramped the initial portfolio throughout the fourth quarter therefore all of our investments have not earned a full quarter's worth of income. We did not achieve our leverage target of 0.25 times and 0.4 times debt plus preferred to total assets until late November. The issuance of the Series A Term Preferred Stock is very accretive as the coupon is 8.75% while our portfolio GAAP yield is 18.16%. The preferred is also flexible capital with a five-year maturity and no financial covenants.

CCIF incurred significant non-recurring expenses in the conjunction with the transaction totaling $1.9 million. Such non-recurring expenses included legal, accounting and advisory fees. We estimate operating expenses, excluding management fees, incentive fees, and cost of preferred will be in the $0.5 million to $0.6 million range per quarter going forward. We expect that the current dividend policy of $0.0994 per month will be covered by our GAAP net investment income on a go forward basis. The monthly dividend is further supported by cash on cash yield of 26% received on the October quarterly payments based on CCIF's purchase price. The quarterly October cash payments totaled $5.81 million compared to $1.17 million payment for the October 2023 dividend.

With that, I will turn it back to Lauren.

Lauren Basmadjian: Thanks, Nelson. We believe the fund is now positioned to provide CCIF investors with an attractive dividend yield that is expected to be fully covered by GAAP net investment income through exposure to a diversified portfolio of CLO equity positions. Our approach allows us to remain focused on disciplined underwriting, prudent portfolio construction, and conservative risk management. I'd now like to hand the call over to the operator to take your questions. Thank you.

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