Bonds Part III: Cumulative Vs periodic interest payment

This is a 3 part of the series of post on bonds. I have designed this post as a water fall model:

1. The most common bonds in most portfolios are the infrastructure bonds and other bonds bought as part of 80 C, 80 CCF etc. These bonds usually give lower than market rate returns and have a stringent lock in period etc. If you intend to buy such bonds then ALWAYS GO FOR THE ONE WITH COUPON RATE. This way only your capital would be locked and interest (which is about 8-9% of your capital) would be returned back to you annually for reinvestment (probably in another tax planning instrument for next year) This way one can recycle the capital to ensure maximum tax benefit with least amount of capital being locked away.
2. Default risk: Simply put most companies irrespective of how harsh the times are somehow manage to pay the interest rate. However when the time comes to pay back the principal, the company faces issues. This is primarily because companies tend to prefer to roll their debt. i.e. issue fresh bonds (from retail or via banks/FI) and if their standing in the industry falls, this could become difficult. Looking at the recently open issue (10.75% interest over 15 years) 10,000/- has a maturity amount of 46,255/- So if I were you, I would prefer to get an annual coupon rate, reinvest it in another bond and diversify so that even in case of default I am able to capture back 36,255/- of the 46,255/- maturity value. However if you are subscribing to public sector bonds/bonds with explicit/implicit sovereign guarantee then move to point 3.
3. Interest rate trend: If you believe that interest rate are going to go up in the future then go for shorter duration bonds and in that one with most frequent interest payment (monthly/quarterly/semi-annually). More frequent the coupon payment, lesser would be Macaulay Duration and hence lesser sensitivity of your portfolio to interest rate hikes.
4. Trading: As mentioned in the previous point. If you don’t intent to hold the bond till maturity and sell it once the interest rate falls then probably you would make more money by going for the cumulative bonds.
5. Liquidity requirements: Pension holders prefer monthly income bonds which allow them to cover a part of their monthly expenses by bond income. On the other hand if you are young and intend to save money in bond so that you could buy property/car etc. then go for cumulative bonds that way your savings would be inflation proof (at least partly)
6. Your job/financial security: You won’t find this in any book, but for guys like me who are expected to bring food to the table but don’t have a secure government job, I prefer periodic interest payment. My logic is that these interest payments would ease my liquidity crunch which could arise due to sudden loss of job/income source. This way I don’t have to dip into my investments (which like selling gold ornaments could be very depressing) and if I don’t need the interest money, I could always reinvest and increase the diversification in my portfolio.
7. On the other hand if you are the secondly breadwinner (usually the wife) or have a secure govt. job, then all things equal I would go for cumulative bonds. Again based on your personal preference even a mix and match would not be something I would proscribe.

I hope you found this useful. Please feel free to add to this post or highlight the fault in my logic.

Bonds Explained: Part II: Bonds vs. Debt Funds

This is in continuation with the Bond vs FD post. Please refer to it for some technical jargons.

Contrary to popular perception, one can actually lose money in a guild fund. When the interest rate goes up, the bond becomes less valuable. (as bonds offering higher interest rate are available in the market) For more details please refer to Macaulay Duration ( Also fund managers are required by law to disclose their portfolio and they usually don’t churn their portfolio frequently enough. So if I were you, instead of investing in a guild fund, I would invest directly into the individuals bonds and save on the Fund Management fee, exit fees etc.

Why my financial planner never told me about them. Simple look at who is paying them…. Usually it is the firm selling the financial products. So if you invest in a 15 year bond then he/she can be assured that you won’t touch that money for the next 15 years. So there goes all the commission that could be made when you switched from one fund to another every 6 months.

PS: There is a slight difference in tax implication in various instruments, but since I don’t have an official degree in Tax, I would advise to consult your tax planner.

Bonds Explained: Part 1: FD Vs Bonds

SBI and Sriram motor finance bond issue was oversubscribed many times on the opening day itself would make one wonder why people go for the bond issues. After all Fixed Deposit has many advantages

1. Sovereign guarantee: RBI offers banks a lot of protection enabling them to raise capital from public and RBI itself at a very discounted rate (sometimes at a cost lower than then that of government borrowing) and in return RBI forces a lot of lending norms to ensure a healthy balance sheet and growth in the nation.

What it means: There is an explicit insurance that all customers who have deposited money with the RBI approved bank would get back at least a minimum assured amount. Also what has been seen is that generous bailout packages and doles are given to sick banks enabling them to not default.

1. Flexibility: You can walk into a bank (or order online/phone) anytime and open up a Fixed deposit of whatever tenure that suits you. Also after paying a nominal penalty, one can also close the deposit and withdraw the money back
2. Best interest rate: If the interest rate are up, no problems. You can close the fixed deposit and reopen it at the prevailing rate.

Benefit to senior citizens: I have never understood the financial logic of offering higher interest rate to senior citizens, but they do exist. Bonds make no such distinction.

Compared to that Bonds offer:

1. Higher interest rates: Remember the Risk Return Graph (CAPM )
2. Higher risk: The bonds of a firm are worth something only as long as the issuer is capable of paying you back (or as in case of Essar… willing to honor its debt). So watch out for shady firms with weak balance sheet issuing debt. However a lot of public sector firms and blue chips regularly issue bonds so there is no scarcity of good issues, but care needs to be made while selecting.
3. Longer duration: 10-15 year bonds are not uncommon, while rarely people go for fixed deposit with maturity of more than 3 years. Hence good quality bonds make an excellent retirement portfolio addition.
4. Less Liquidity: Companies don’t raise capital (from public) everyday and looking at the previous few issues it is a seller’s market. The company decides the interest rate, the terms and conditions (esp. the call schedule) and also when they want to issue the bonds. Also except on the explicit put/call dates it is very hard to get the money back from the company. Also most bonds are very thinly traded.
5. Demat: Now days most bonds are issued in demat format. This helps in liquidity a lot. Even if the bonds are not being traded, you can transfer it to one of your friends or relatives for cash/other consideration. I have done this OTC transaction for both bonds certificates in physical as well as demat format and trust me demat is so convenient (provided you have a buyer)
6. Convertible option/Debentures: A lot of company sweetens the deal by offering a convertible option. Shares for a predetermined price. So if the stock market rises, people can convert their bonds into shares at a discounted price. Else they can always get their money back.

Bonds allow you to capture the wealth created due to interest rate fluctuations. Interest rates are quite high these days and RBI has ruled against possible rate hikes in the future. (not very trust worthy as policies can change in the next quarter) Now say 2 years down the line you have a FD which gives you a solid 10% return and the prevailing FD rate is only 6%. Of course it is very frustrating because the bank will not compensate you for this extra interest rate that you are foregoing. Also FD are not transferable (you can take a loan but sometimes it does not make logical sense), however bonds trade on the basis of YTM (yield to maturity) and allow the holder to exit at a profit hence capturing the benefit of fall in interest rate. (beware you could lose also because of it)

Please look out for a post on Bonds vs Debt Mutual funds.