Sixth Street Specialty Lending’s Consistent Performance Justifies Premium

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Written By Joel Gbolade


  • Sixth Street Specialty Lending (TSLX) is a Business Development Company (BDC) specializing in lending to middle-market U.S. companies.
  • The portfolio is well-diversified with a focus on risk mitigation through first-lien debt investments, primarily on a floating rate basis.
  • TSLX boasts a strong distribution rate of 8.8%, supported by strong net investment income and a history of solid dividend growth.
  • Despite trading at a premium to NAV, TSLX’s portfolio quality justifies this valuation, demonstrating resilience against economic cycles.
  • Non-accruals have slightly increased to 1.1% of fair value.


Credits: DepositPhotos

Sixth Street Specialty Lending (NYSE: TSLX) operates as a BDC, primarily lending to middle-market U.S.-based companies. With a public inception dating back to 2014, TSLX offers a decade-long track record of performance and strategic portfolio management.

Performance and Total Return

Comparing TSLX to peer BDCs over the past three years, it has delivered a total return exceeding 30%. This performance is underpinned by its competitive distribution rate of 8.8%, a consistent feature over the past five years.

Portfolio Strategy

Diversification and Risk Mitigation

TSLX maintains a well-diversified portfolio with an average investment size ranging from $20 million to $105 million per position. While primarily focused on U.S. borrowers, it also has exposure to European markets. Notably, the portfolio exhibits resistance to economic cycles, evidenced by consistent growth in fair value to approximately $3.38 billion from $1.19 billion a decade ago.

Industry Exposure

The portfolio is diversified across various sectors, with business services comprising the largest exposure at 17%. This is followed by Internet Services (15.1%) and Human Resources Support Services (10.8%). The top ten borrowers collectively account for about 22% of the portfolio, spread across 124 individual portfolio companies.

Risk Management

Debt Structure

A significant majority (92%) of TSLX’s investments are structured as first lien senior secured debt, offering priority repayment status in case of borrower distress or bankruptcy. This structure helps mitigate risk and preserves capital during economic downturns.

Floating Rate Basis

Over 99% of TSLX’s investments are on a floating rate basis, allowing it to benefit from rising interest rates by increasing interest income. Conversely, lower interest rates pose a risk of reduced income, reflecting the company’s sensitivity to interest rate movements.

Financial Performance

Recent Earnings

TSLX reported Q1 earnings slightly below expectations but maintained a solid performance trajectory. Net investment income per share was $0.53, down from $0.65 year-over-year. This decline is partly attributed to sustained higher interest rates impacting borrower profitability.


Non-accruals, representing underperforming portfolio companies, increased marginally to 1.1% of fair value. This compares favorably with peer BDCs such as Morgan Stanley Direct Lending (0.4%), Oaktree Specialty Lending (2.4%), and Main Street Capital (0.5%), indicating a manageable level of credit risk.

Investment Quality

Internal Ratings and Investments

TSLX employs an internal rating system where 91% of its portfolio is rated 1 (highest quality) and 5% rated 2. This high-quality portfolio composition underscores effective underwriting and risk management practices by management.

New Investments

In Q1 2024, TSLX committed $263 million to new investments across nine portfolio companies, averaging $24 million per investment with an average term of over six years. This strategic deployment supports long-term stability and growth.

Dividend Policy

TSLX declares a quarterly dividend of $0.46 per share, translating to an attractive yield of 8.8%. With a consistent history of dividend growth, averaging a 3.4% compound annual growth rate since inception, the distribution is well-covered by net investment income, achieving coverage of 115.2%.

Valuation and Market Outlook

Premium to NAV

Currently, TSLX trades at a premium to NAV of approximately 26.7%, consistent with historical levels averaging 22.85% over the past three years. This premium is justified by the strong portfolio performance and management’s effective underwriting practices.

Analyst Outlook

Wall Street analysts maintain a price target averaging $22.64 per share, suggesting a modest upside potential of 4%. However, the primary value proposition lies in TSLX’s sustainable high distribution rate and consistent performance.

Strong Portfolio Proves Promising

Credits: DepositPhotos


Sixth Street Specialty Lending (TSLX) offers a compelling investment opportunity within the BDC sector.

Its robust portfolio management, strong risk mitigation strategies, and consistent dividend performance make it an attractive choice for income-focused investors. Despite trading at a premium to NAV, TSLX’s ability to navigate economic cycles and maintain a high-quality investment portfolio supports its valuation.

Investors seeking reliable income generation and potential dividend growth should consider TSLX as a worthwhile addition to their portfolio.


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