Convertible bond

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In finance, a convertible bond or convertible note or convertible debt (or a convertible debenture if it has a maturity of greater than 10 years) is a type of bond that the holder can convert into a specified number of shares of common stock in the issuing company or cash of equal value. It is a hybrid security with debt- and equity-like features. [1] It originated in the mid-19th century, and was used by early speculators such as Jacob Little and Daniel Drew to counter market cornering. [2]

Finance academic discipline studying businesses and investments

Finance is a field that is concerned with the allocation (investment) of assets and liabilities over space and time, often under conditions of risk or uncertainty. Finance can also be defined as the art of money management. Participants in the market aim to price assets based on their risk level, fundamental value, and their expected rate of return. Finance can be split into three sub-categories: public finance, corporate finance and personal finance.

Bond (finance) instrument of indebtedness

In finance, a bond is an instrument of indebtedness of the bond issuer to the holders. The most common types of bonds include municipal bonds and corporate bonds.

Common stock form of corporate equity ownership, a type of security

Common stock is a form of corporate equity ownership, a type of security. The terms voting share and ordinary share are also used frequently in other parts of the world; "common stock" being primarily used in the United States. They are known as Equity shares or Ordinary shares in the UK and other Commonwealth realms. This type of share gives the stockholder the right to share in the profits of the company, and to vote on matters of corporate policy and the composition of the members of the board of directors.


Convertible bonds are most often issued by companies with a low credit rating and high growth potential. Convertible bonds are also considered debt security because the companies agree to give fixed or floating interest rate as they do in common bonds for the funds of investor. To compensate for having additional value through the option to convert the bond to stock, a convertible bond typically has a coupon rate lower than that of similar, non-convertible debt. The investor receives the potential upside of conversion into equity while protecting downside with cash flow from the coupon payments and the return of principal upon maturity. These properties lead naturally to the idea of convertible arbitrage, where a long position in the convertible bond is balanced by a short position in the underlying equity.

Coupon (bond) A coupon payment on a bond is the annual interest payment that the bondholder receives from the bonds issue date until it matures

A coupon payment on a bond is the annual interest payment that the bondholder receives from the bond's issue date until it matures.

Convertible arbitrage is a market-neutral investment strategy often employed by hedge funds. It involves the simultaneous purchase of convertible securities and the short sale of the same issuer's common stock.

From the issuer's perspective, the key benefit of raising money by selling convertible bonds is a reduced cash interest payment. The advantage for companies of issuing convertible bonds is that, if the bonds are converted to stocks, companies' debt vanishes. However, in exchange for the benefit of reduced interest payments, the value of shareholder's equity is reduced due to the stock dilution expected when bondholders convert their bonds into new shares.

Interest fee paid by the debtor to the creditor for temporarily borrowed capital

Interest is payment from a borrower or deposit-taking financial institution to a lender or depositor of an amount above repayment of the principal sum, at a particular rate. It is distinct from a fee which the borrower may pay the lender or some third party. It is also distinct from dividend which is paid by a company to its shareholders (owners) from its profit or reserve, but not at a particular rate decided beforehand, rather on a pro rata basis as a share in the reward gained by risk taking entrepreneurs when the revenue earned exceeds the total costs.

Stock dilution, also known as equity dilution, is the decrease in existing shareholders’ ownership of a company as a result of the company issuing new equity. New equity increases the total shares outstanding which has a dilutive effect on the ownership percentage of existing shareholders. This increase in the number of shares outstanding can result from a primary market offering, employees exercising stock options, or by issuance or conversion of convertible bonds, preferred shares or warrants into stock. This dilution can shift fundamental positions of the stock such as ownership percentage, voting control, earnings per share, and the value of individual shares.

Convertible notes are also a frequent vehicle for seed investing in startup companies, as a form of debt that converts to equity in a future investing round.[ citation needed ] It is a hybrid investment vehicle, which carries the (limited) protection of debt at the start, but shares in the upside as equity if the startup is successful, while avoiding the necessity of valuing the company at too early a stage.

Seed money, sometimes known as seed funding or seed capital, is a form of securities offering in which an investor invests capital in a startup company in exchange for an equity stake in the company. The term seed suggests that this is a very early investment, meant to support the business until it can generate cash of its own, or until it is ready for further investments. Seed money options include friends and family funding, angel funding, and crowdfunding.

A startup or start up is a company initiated by individual founders or entrepreneurs to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. More specifically, a startup is a newly emerged business venture that aims to develop a viable business model to meet a marketplace need or problem. Founders design startups to effectively develop and validate a scalable business model. Hence, the concepts of startups and entrepreneurship are similar. However, entrepreneurship refers all new businesses, including self-employment and businesses that never intend to grow big or become registered, while startups refer to new businesses that intend to grow beyond the solo founder, have employees, and intend to grow large. Start ups face high uncertainty and do have high rates of failure, but the minority that go on to be successful companies have the potential to become large and influential. Some startups become unicorns, i.e. privately held startup companies valued at over $1 billion.


Underwriters have been quite innovative and provided several variations of the initial convertible structure. Although no formal classification exists in the financial market it is possible to segment the convertible universe into the following sub-types:

Vanilla convertible bonds

Mandatory convertibles

In finance, risk reversal can refer to a measure of the volatility skew or to an investment strategy.

Reverse convertibles

Packaged convertibles

Additional features

Any convertible bond structure, on top of its type, would bear a certain range of additional features as defined in its issuance prospectus:

Convertibles could bear other more technical features depending on the issuer needs:

Structure and terminology

Due to their relative complexity, convertible bond investors could refer to the following terms while describing convertible bonds:

Markets and Investor profiles

The global convertible bond market is relatively small, with about 400 bn USD (as of Jan 2013, excluding synthetics), as a comparison the straight corporate bond market would be about 14,000 bn USD. Among those 400 bn, about 320 bn USD are "Vanilla" convertible bonds, the largest sub-segment of the asset class.

Convertibles are not spread equally and some slight differences exist between the different regional markets:

Convertible bond investors get split into two broad categories: Hedged and Long-only investors.

The splits between those investors differ across the regions: In 2013, the American region was dominated by Hedged Investors (about 60%) while EMEA was dominated by Long-Only investors (about 70%). Globally the split is about balanced between the two categories.


See also: Bond option#Embedded options; Lattice model (finance)#Hybrid Securities.

In theory, the market price of a convertible debenture should never drop below its intrinsic value. The intrinsic value is simply the number of shares being converted at par value times the current market price of common shares.

The 3 main stages of convertible bond behaviour are:

In-the-money CB's are considered as being within Area of Equity (the right hand side of the diagram). At-the-money CB's are considered as being within Area of Equity & Debt (the middle part of the diagram). Out-the-money CB's are considered as being within Area of Debt (the left hand side of the diagram)

From a valuation perspective, a convertible bond consists of two assets: a bond and a warrant. Valuing a convertible requires an assumption of

  1. the underlying stock volatility to value the option and
  2. the credit spread for the fixed income portion that takes into account the firm's credit profile and the ranking of the convertible within the capital structure.

Using the market price of the convertible, one can determine the implied volatility (using the assumed spread) or implied spread (using the assumed volatility).

This volatility/credit dichotomy is the standard practice for valuing convertibles. What makes convertibles so interesting is that, except in the case of exchangeables (see above), one cannot entirely separate the volatility from the credit. Higher volatility (a good thing) tends to accompany weaker credit (bad). In the case of exchangeables, the credit quality of the issuer may be decoupled from the volatility of the underlying shares. The true artists of convertibles and exchangeables are the people who know how to play this balancing act.

A simple method for calculating the value of a convertible involves calculating the present value of future interest and principal payments at the cost of debt and adds the present value of the warrant. However, this method ignores certain market realities including stochastic interest rates and credit spreads, and does not take into account popular convertible features such as issuer calls, investor puts, and conversion rate resets. The most popular models for valuing convertibles with these features are finite difference models as well as the more common binomial- and trinomial trees.

Since 1991-92, most market-makers in Europe have employed binomial models to evaluate convertibles. Models were available from INSEAD, Trend Data of Canada, Bloomberg LP and from home-developed models, amongst others. These models needed an input of credit spread, volatility for pricing (historic volatility often used), and the risk-free rate of return. The binomial calculation assumes there is a bell-shaped probability distribution to future share prices, and the higher the volatility, the flatter is the bell-shape. Where there are issuer calls and investor puts, these will affect the expected residual period of optionality, at different share price levels. The binomial value is a weighted expected value, (1) taking readings from all the different nodes of a lattice expanding out from current prices and (2) taking account of varying periods of expected residual optionality at different share price levels. See Lattice model (finance)#Hybrid Securities. The three biggest areas of subjectivity are (1) the rate of volatility used, for volatility is not constant, and (2) whether or not to incorporate into the model a cost of stock borrow, for hedge funds and market-makers. The third important factor is (3) the dividend status of the equity delivered, if the bond is called, as the issuer may time the calling of the bond to minimise the dividend cost to the issuer.

Uses for investors

In consequence, since we get , which implies that the variation of C is less than the variation of S, which can be interpreted as less volatility.

Uses for issuers

Lower fixed-rate borrowing costs

Locking into low fixed–rate long-term borrowing

Higher conversion price than a rights issue strike price

Voting dilution deferred

Increasing the total level of debt gearing

Maximising funding permitted under pre-emption rules

Premium redemption convertibles

Takeover paper

The pro-forma fully diluted earnings per share shows none of the extra cost of servicing the convertible up to the conversion day irrespective of whether the coupon was 10pct or 15pct. The fully diluted earnings per share is also calculated on a smaller number of shares than if equity was used as the takeover currency.
In some countries (such as Finland) convertibles of various structures may be treated as equity by the local accounting profession. In such circumstances, the accounting treatment may result in less pro-forma debt than if straight debt was used as takeover currency or to fund an acquisition. The perception was that gearing was less with a convertible than if straight debt was used instead. In the UK the predecessor to the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) put a stop to treating convertible preference shares as equity. Instead it has to be classified both as (1) preference capital and as (2) convertible as well.
Nevertheless, none of the (possibly substantial) preference dividend cost incurred when servicing a convertible preference share is visible in the pro-forma consolidated pretax profits statement.
The cosmetic benefits in (1) reported pro-forma diluted earnings per share, (2) debt gearing (for a while) and (3) pro-forma consolidated pre-tax profits (for convertible preference shares) led to UK convertible preference shares being the largest European class of convertibles in the early 1980s, until the tighter terms achievable on Euroconvertible bonds resulted in Euroconvertible new issues eclipsing domestic convertibles (including convertible preference shares) from the mid 1980s.

Tax advantages

2010 U.S. Equity-Linked Underwriting League Table

RankUnderwriterMarket Share (%)Amount ($m)
1J.P. Morgan21.0$7,359.72
2Bank of America Merrill Lynch15.3$5,369.23
3Goldman Sachs & Co12.5$4,370.56
4Morgan Stanley8.8$3,077.95
5Deutsche Bank AG7.8$2,748.52
7Credit Suisse6.9$2,405.97
8Barclays Capital5.6$1,969.22
10Jefferies Group Inc4.3$1,522.50

Source: Bloomberg

See also

Related Research Articles

In economics and finance, arbitrage is the practice of taking advantage of a price difference between two or more markets: striking a combination of matching deals that capitalize upon the imbalance, the profit being the difference between the market prices. When used by academics, an arbitrage is a transaction that involves no negative cash flow at any probabilistic or temporal state and a positive cash flow in at least one state; in simple terms, it is the possibility of a risk-free profit after transaction costs. For example, an arbitrage opportunity is present when there is the opportunity to instantaneously buy something for a low price and sell it for a higher price.


In corporate finance, a debenture is a medium- to long-term debt instrument used by large companies to borrow money, at a fixed rate of interest. The legal term "debenture" originally referred to a document that either creates a debt or acknowledges it, but in some countries the term is now used interchangeably with bond, loan stock or note. A debenture is thus like a certificate of loan or a loan bond evidencing the fact that the company is liable to pay a specified amount with interest and although the money raised by the debentures becomes a part of the company's capital structure, it does not become share capital. Senior debentures get paid before subordinate debentures, and there are varying rates of risk and payoff for these categories.

Warrant (finance) security that entitles the holder to buy stock

In finance, a warrant is a security that entitles the holder to buy the underlying stock of the issuing company at a fixed price called exercise price until the expiry date.

In finance, an equity derivative is a class of derivatives whose value is at least partly derived from one or more underlying equity securities. Options and futures are by far the most common equity derivatives, however there are many other types of equity derivatives that are actively traded.

Yield (finance) financial

In finance, the yield on a security is the amount of cash that returns to the owners of the security, in the form of interest or dividends received from it. Normally, it does not include the price variations, distinguishing it from the total return. Yield applies to various stated rates of return on stocks, fixed income instruments, and some other investment type insurance products.

Preferred stock type of stock which may have any combination of features not possessed by common stock

Preferred stock is a form of stock which may have any combination of features not possessed by common stock including properties of both an equity and a debt instrument, and is generally considered a hybrid instrument. Preferred stocks are senior to common stock, but subordinate to bonds in terms of claim and may have priority over common stock in the payment of dividends and upon liquidation. Terms of the preferred stock are described in the issuing company's articles of association or articles of incorporation.

Fixed income

Fixed income refers to any type of investment under which the borrower or issuer is obliged to make payments of a fixed amount on a fixed schedule. For example, the borrower may have to pay interest at a fixed rate once a year, and to repay the principal amount on maturity. Fixed-income securities can be contrasted with equity securities – often referred to as stocks and shares – that create no obligation to pay dividends or any other form of income.

Corporate bond bond issued by a corporation

A corporate bond is a bond issued by a corporation in order to raise financing for a variety of reasons such as to ongoing operations, M&A, or to expand business. The term is usually applied to longer-term debt instruments, with maturity of at least one year. Corporate debt instruments with maturity shorter than one year are referred to as commercial paper.

A callable bond is a type of bond that allows the issuer of the bond to retain the privilege of redeeming the bond at some point before the bond reaches its date of maturity. In other words, on the call date(s), the issuer has the right, but not the obligation, to buy back the bonds from the bond holders at a defined call price. Technically speaking, the bonds are not really bought and held by the issuer but are instead cancelled immediately.

In finance, a bond option is an option to buy or sell a bond at a certain price on or before the option expiry date. These instruments are typically traded OTC.

Hybrid security securities that combine debt and equity features

Hybrid securities are a broad group of securities that combine the characteristics of the two broader groups of securities, debt and equity.

A bond fund or debt fund is a fund that invests in bonds, or other debt securities. Bond funds can be contrasted with stock funds and money funds. Bond funds typically pay periodic dividends that include interest payments on the fund's underlying securities plus periodic realized capital appreciation. Bond funds typically pay higher dividends than CDs and money market accounts. Most bond funds pay out dividends more frequently than individual bonds.

An equity-linked note (ELN) is a debt instrument, usually a bond, that differs from a standard fixed-income security in that the final payout is based on the return of the underlying equity, which can be a single stock, basket of stocks, or an equity index. Equity-linked notes are a type of structured products.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to finance:

A reverse convertible security or convertible security is a short-term note linked to an underlying stock. The security offers a steady stream of income due to the payment of a high coupon rate. In addition, at maturity the owner will receive either 100% of the par value or, if the stock value falls, a predetermined number of shares of the underlying stock. In the context of structured product, a reverse convertible can be linked to an equity index or a basket of indices. In such case, the capital repayment at maturity is cash settled, either 100% of principal, or less if the underlying index falls conditional on barrier is hit in the case of barrier reverse convertibles.

An inverse floating rate note, or simply an inverse floater, is a type of bond or other type of debt instrument used in finance whose coupon rate has an inverse relationship to short-term interest rates. With an inverse floater, as interest rates rise the coupon rate falls. The basic structure is the same as an ordinary floating rate note except for the direction in which the coupon rate is adjusted. These two structures are often used in concert.

Foreign currency convertible bonds (FCCBs) are a special category of bonds. FCCBs are issued in currencies different from the issuing company's domestic currency. Corporates issue FCCBs to raise money in foreign currencies. These bonds retain all features of a convertible bond, making them very attractive to both the investors and the issuers.


  1. Scatizzi, Cara (February 2009). "Convertible Bonds". The AAII Journal. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
  2. Jerry W. Markham (2002). A Financial History of the United States: From Christopher Columbus to the Robber Barons. M. E. Sharpe. p. 161. ISBN   0-7656-0730-1.
  3. [ dead link ]Hirst, Gary (June 21, 2013). "Cocos: Contingent Convertible Capital Notes and Insurance Reserves". Retrieved April 13, 2014.