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People line up at an Apple store shortly before it opens in Beijing on Jan. 3.Thomas Peter/Reuters

Apple Inc. has tapped the maple bond market for the first time, raising $2.5-billion, the single biggest offering ever for this unique corner of the debt market.

After a slow 2016, the market for maple bonds has roared back this year, posting its strongest showing since 2007.

Apple raised more money than it had initially targeted. According to sources, Apple had been seeking only $1.5-billion at a rate of 83 basis points, plus or minus 3 basis points. (A basis point is 1/100th of a percentage point.)

The maple issuance from Apple is for a seven-year term, and was done in a single tranche at 80 basis points above the Government of Canada bond of the same duration, with an initial yield of 2.513 per cent.

In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Apple said it plans to use the funds for general corporate purposes that may include share buybacks and acquisitions.

The offering, which was sold via a private placement to institutional clients, was led by HSBC Bank Canada, RBC Dominion Securities Inc., BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Maple bonds are issued by foreign companies in Canadian dollars into the domestic bond market. Other notable deals this year include Anheuser-Busch InBev SA raising $2-billion in two tranches in May, and AT&T Inc. issuing $750-million the same month.

There is a particularly strong appetite from Canadian investors for maple bonds because of the lack of choice, Jean-François Godin, principal analyst with Desjardins Securities Inc., said in an interview. Historically, the maple market has been dominated by only three sectors, namely financials, utilities and telecommunications.

The Apple offering, and others this year from U.S. multinationals such as United Parcel Service Inc., offer investors new high-quality, globally recognized names.

"They're bringing diversity to a market that is not that well diversified," Mr. Godin said.

That lack of diversity in Canada has also given foreign issuers additional leverage when it comes to negotiating a lower cost of funds.

"The pricing over the last six months has gone from not working for any of these issuers, to starting to work for them," said Brad Meiers, head of debt capital markets and debt syndication with HSBC Securities (Canada) Inc.

"The Canadian banks have really not raised as much domestically in Canada as they had previously. So there is really a dearth of high-grade-quality corporate paper that's been issued in Canada. … So we've really filled that gap with these type of maple issuers."

Investors are also willing to accept a comparatively low yield on a company such as Apple, which is rated double-A-plus by Standard & Poor's, only one notch below the highest triple-A rating, partly because of the company's vast cash reserves.

From the issuer's point of view, large multinationals need to raise Canadian dollars to fund operations in this country, Mr. Godin said, and sometimes they can also borrow at better terms in Canada than in their own domestic market.

Mr. Godin said that even if Apple is only borrowing at a few basis points below what they can borrow in the United States, "that's a lot of money saved."

"It's mainly a matter of chasing the best economics as an issuer," he added.

So far this year, $8.9-billion has been raised in the maple bond market, according to Thomson Reuters data. Last year, only $1.9-billion was raised. In 2007, $10.6-billion was raised.