Convertible vs. Reverse Convertible Bonds
Convertible bonds allow bondholders to transform their bonds into an alternative debt or equity format at a predetermined price and for a specified quantity of shares. Conversely, reverse convertible bonds provide the issuer with the right, though not the obligation, to convert the bond's principal into equity shares, cash, or another form of debt on a specified date.
To elaborate, both convertible and reverse convertible bonds afford similar conversion rights, but these rights are held by distinct entities. In essence, the conversion feature in both instruments acts as an embedded derivative, specifically categorized as an option. The distinction between the two lies in the configuration of the options linked to the bonds.
Understanding Convertible Bonds
Convertible bondholders retain the discretion to convert their bonds into common stock, and this conversion feature resembles an attached call option. When the market price of the underlying equity or debt of the conversion feature rises, convertible bonds often command a premium. Conversely, decreasing the underlying debt or equity price diminishes the conversion feature's value. Despite the potential devaluation of the convertible option, the holder still possesses a bond that typically provides coupons and face value upon maturity.
For companies seeking versatile financing solutions, convertible bonds prove advantageous, particularly for those with high-risk, high-reward profiles. The yield on these bonds tends to be lower than non-convertible counterparts, reflecting the additional upside granted to the bondholder by the convertible option.
Exploring Reverse Convertible Bonds
Similar to their convertible counterparts, reverse convertible bonds feature an embedded options component. However, in this scenario, the embedded option manifests as a put option held by the bond's issuer on a company's shares. This put option grants the issuer the right to "put" the bond's principal to bondholders at a predetermined date for existing debt, cash, or shares of an underlying company. Notably, the underlying company can either be the issuer's own or an entirely unrelated entity.
Typically, issuers exercise the reverse convertible bond's option when the underlying shares fall below a specified price, known as the knock-in level. In such instances, bondholders receive the stock instead of the principal and any additional coupons, resulting in substantial cost savings for the issuer.
Consider XYZ bank issuing a reverse convertible bond on the bank's debt, featuring a built-in put option on ABC Corp., a blue-chip company. Despite the bond having a stated yield of 10% to 20%, a significant decrease in ABC's share value empowers the bank to issue blue-chip shares to bondholders instead of cash at the bond's maturity.
Given their inherent risks for investors, who may receive company shares instead of interest income and principal repayment, reverse convertible bonds often boast shorter maturity terms. Consequently, their yields typically surpass comparable bonds lacking the reverse option.
Convertible and reverse convertible bonds navigate a complex financial landscape, sharing conversion rights but differing in their holders. Convertible options offer flexibility to bondholders with potential upsides and lower yields. Conversely, reverse convertible bonds empower issuers to mitigate risks and achieve savings, though at the expense of shorter maturities and higher yields. This exploration highlights the strategic considerations and risk-reward balance in the realm of convertible securities.