What Are Hung Convertibles?
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What Are Hung Convertibles?

5 Min.

Convertible securities are a type of security that can be repaid in either cash or the stock of the company that issued them, subject to certain conditions. Hung convertibles, also known as busted convertibles, are a type of convertible security where the price of the underlying stock is significantly lower than the conversion price, which makes it unlikely that the securities will be converted into common stock. As a result, these securities are traded more like debt instruments. Most companies prefer not to have hung convertibles, as they are obligated to repay the funds in cash. To address the issue of a hung convertible, a company would need to improve its fundamentals to drive the common stock price higher and reach the conversion price.

Basics

Convertible securities, known as "hung convertibles," emerge when the market value of the underlying security falls significantly below the predetermined conversion price. This considerable disparity renders the likelihood of these securities being converted into common stock rather remote. In such a scenario, issuers face the obligation to repay unconverted deposits at their nominal face value. Consequently, it becomes imperative for most issuers to undertake measures aimed at averting the situation of "hung convertibles."

Exploring the Dynamics of Hung Convertibles

Convertible securities, encompassing bonds, notes, and preferred stock, offer the unique ability to transform into common shares of the issuing company at a predetermined price and future date. For entities with modest creditworthiness, the issuance of convertible securities presents an economical avenue to secure funds.

Hung convertibles, a nomenclature adopted when the probability of conversion diminishes, typically arise when the conversion costs surpass the underlying stock's market value. This situation is frequently encountered.

Owing to their limited potential for conversion, hung convertibles, also referred to as "busted convertibles," more closely resemble debt instruments in their trading behavior as opposed to quasi-equity securities. It is essential to note that "hung convertibles" can pertain to two distinct scenarios where the likelihood of conversion remains decidedly low.

Illustration of a Hung Convertible Scenario

Hung convertibles can manifest in the form of collateral-backed bonds or issuer-dependent debentures. For instance, let's consider a convertible debenture bearing a face value of $1,000, convertible into 100 shares at a fixed price of $10. When the market value of the underlying stock stands at $4, this debenture assumes the classification of a hung convertible, particularly if its maturity date looms in the near future.

In such instances, the pricing of this debenture assumes characteristics akin to a debt instrument, influenced by a spectrum of factors, encompassing coupon rates, maturity timelines, current market interest rates, yields, and the issuer's credit rating.

To rectify the issue of a hung convertible, a company must enhance its fundamental metrics, including bolstering revenue growth, fortifying operating margins, or elevating the return on invested capital. These strategic improvements aim to drive the common stock's value sufficiently to bridge the gap to the conversion price.

Pros and Cons of Hung Convertibles

Hung convertibles offer investors a unique blend of attributes. They combine the stability and income-generating nature of bonds with the potential for conversion into common stock. Historically, common stocks have shown greater capital appreciation and a lesser sensitivity to interest rates compared to bonds. This dual nature allows investors to earn coupon payments until maturity or conversion, effectively getting paid while waiting.

For equity investors, convertibles provide the advantage of participating in upswings in the market while affording increased protection during volatile periods, in contrast to owning common stock outright.

However, there are drawbacks to hung convertibles. Due to their conversion feature, these securities typically offer lower coupon rates compared to bonds with similar maturity and credit quality. Investment manager Calamos Investments estimates this discrepancy at 300 to 400 basis points, a substantial margin in the current low-interest-rate environment. Moreover, in the event of poor stock performance by the issuer, the investor may be left with a lower-yielding bond.

Evaluating Convertibles: A Complex Interplay of Factors

Assessing the value of convertible securities is a multifaceted endeavor. It necessitates the simultaneous analysis of factors that affect both bonds, such as interest rates, and factors impacting stocks, like earnings growth. The influence of these factors varies depending on where a convertible bond stands in relation to its investment value or the equivalent non-convertible bond.

When a convertible bond is near its investment value, interest rates significantly influence its price behavior. Conversely, if it is closer to its conversion value, the dynamics shift. Nevertheless, it is essential to note that, in general, alterations in the fundamentals of the issuing company wield the most substantial influence on the price of a convertible security.

Conclusion

Convertible securities, including hung convertibles, offer a unique blend of characteristics bridging bonds and stocks. Their value is influenced by factors like interest rates and issuer fundamentals. While they provide income and equity potential, they have lower coupon rates. Companies aim to avoid hung convertibles by improving their financials and closing the gap in the conversion price. In this intricate realm, understanding the opportunities and limitations of hung convertibles is paramount for both investors and issuers.

Hung Convertibles
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